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Raiders Cheerleaders Sue Over Terrible Working Conditions

Raiders Cheerleaders Sue Over Terrible Working Conditions

Imagine taking home less in a year than many people take home in a month (and that’s with one minimum wage job), all while you’re committed to your job pretty much 24/7, between practice, working out, travel, public appearances and more. If you’re an Oakland Raiderette, you don’t have to imagine it: the cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders are experiencing just that, which is why they’re taking to court with a suit to demand some reparations and fair compensation.

According to plaintiff Lacy T. (under team policies, cheerleaders don’t use their last names for security reasons), the team withholds cheerleading paychecks — which clock in at a gobstopping $1,250 per year — until the end of the season, doesn’t pay team members for all of their worked hours, and forces them to absorb many of their cheer-related expenses. Cheerleading uniforms as well as warm-up gear, alternate gear, pom-poms, and other supplies are extremely expensive (and cheerleaders can be fined for having the wrong gear at public appearances), and these costs rack up quickly.

“…someone has to stand up for all of the women of the NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams,” says Lacy, who loves cheering for the team, enjoys the NFL, and is clearly passionate about her job. Like many other people who have been rising up in recent years to protest unfair working conditions, however, she understands the difference between being passionate about her job and sacrificing everything for it. She believes that the women who cheer NFL teams should receive fair pay and treatment, and it’s not an unreasonable request.

After all, they’re performing needed work — sports teams perform better with a cheering section, and many fans appreciate cheerleaders as well. Cheerleading is also a demanding physical sport that requires immense physical strength, constant physical conditioning and considerable investment in appearance (the team, Lucy notes, controls hair and makeup, forcing the women to spend even more money to get the mandatory look for members of the cheerleading squad).

Furthermore, the teams they’re cheering for include male athletes making millions of dollars in a combination of contracts and endorsements. In 2013, even the lowest salaries on the Raiders’ roster were in the $400,000 range, with headliner Darren McFadden making almost $6 million. The contrast between the salary given to the cheerleaders under their contracts and the amount received by the athletes is glaring and rather shocking — and that’s not even a bone of contention in the suit, filed in the Alameda County Superior Court.

All Lacy wants is compensation in line with minimum wage requirements, reimbursements for expenses incurred in the course of her work and the overtime pay she’s owed. That said, she is hoping her suit attracts attention and leads other cheerleaders to file suits of their own and join a larger labor fight to improve working conditions for NFL cheerleaders, who are just as dedicated to their jobs as the athletes on the field during the game are, but who receive much less compensation.

I was totally shocked, attorney Sharon Vinick, who is handling the case, said. I had no idea that cheerleaders were paid so poorly, and when she shared the written contract, I was outraged. I had never seen a contract that had so many things that were blatantly illegal.

The Raiderettes aren’t alone. Low pay and poor working conditions are par for the course in the NFL and other professional leagues — even auditioning to get on a team requires a tremendous financial investment. Can Lacy’s suit change the way compensation for cheerleaders is viewed by the NFL, which insists that cheerleading is a “part time job,” despite the fact that it demands full time dedication?


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Photo credit: V Smoothe.

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6:04AM PST on Feb 5, 2014

On Care2 Petition Site, on Care2 Causes, and on Care2 News.....

Stopping the NFL nonprofit tax exemption. - The Petition Site
The NFL made $9 billion last year, but paid no taxes. It's time for the NFL to pay its fair share!
Love the NFL? This Foul Fact Could Change Your Mind | Care2 ...
So the NFL took their tax-exempt status into the huddle
End the NFL's 'charity' tax break -- TAKE ACTION! - Care2 News ...
Jan 26, 2014 ... I was shocked to learn that the last time the NFL paid taxes was
Bet most people didn't know this before now!

9:35AM PST on Feb 4, 2014

this is so disgusting to hear, i hope they get all the $ owed and then some!!! and i hope all other cheerleaders demand nothing less,what a gross f'd up sexist/misogynistic thing...

10:50AM PST on Feb 3, 2014

While the “advice” in the [Raiders Handbook for Cheerleaders] is almost uniformly outdated, sexist, and demeaning, the most egregious offense comes in a section about fraternization between players and cheerleaders.
Raiderettes are essentially told that it is their responsibility to ensure that they are not sexually assaulted by players, because bad publicity could result in a “ruined reputation” for the team and the cheerleaders. The handbook references a series of parties thrown by a player who was later “suspended from the team for drug use but also arrested for date rape.” The moral to be learned from this incident, the handbook concludes, is that Raiderettes at the parties “narrowly…missed having [their] photo in all the local papers and/or being assaulted [emphasis added].” The fact that the safety of the Raiderettes comes second to bad publicity is very telling of the handbook’s general tone

10:45AM PST on Feb 3, 2014

forcechange PETITION to change Raiders demeaning, Sexist, Rape-culture handbook for Cheerleaders, leaked to the LA Times:

Please Note and Sign!

6:56AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

That smear by Juahara represents the kind of sneering prejudice pretty women face. Shame on you! You don't know these women and you've no possible idea of their life situations. That was a disgusting remark.

6:00AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

They chose this job so they don't like it they should go get a different one. Guess they were hoping to rump shake their way to a player's side.

5:41AM PST on Feb 1, 2014

I am cheering for them, God bless them.

4:18AM PST on Feb 1, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

5:32PM PST on Jan 31, 2014

I'm with you, Debra...a LOT of victim-blaming from people who claim to value women.

These women have made a CHOICE to choose honest work! Maybe YOU wouldn't do it...but, so what?

It's honest work and they deserve fair wages.

Frankly, I'm disappointed in many of you.

5:51AM PST on Jan 31, 2014

thank you.

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