By Talia Loucks
Being a cheerleader for a winning football team like the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos sounds like a lot of fun: exciting games, screaming fans, and trips to the Super Bowl. But for the teams that are not winning any titles, the cheerleaders do not have much to cheer about. On top of cheering for a team with a losing record, many of these cheerleaders are barely even compensated for their time.
Minimum compensation may seem reasonable to the average fan: these cheerleaders get to be on the field at every game. Many want this position, and many are turned down. That should be enough for these women, right? Well, taking a closer look at the requirements shows that the NFL cheerleaders are restricted in a number of ways: the gaining of a couple pounds can result in suspension, many of the squads must pay for their own uniforms, and some are even encouraged to have plastic surgery. Additionally, cheerleaders must rehearse for long hours and participate in charity events and publicity events. All of this, plus any travel time for playoffs can make having a regular 9-5 job very difficult.
Last month, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers settled a lawsuit to more properly compensate the Bucs cheerleaders for their time. This followed a settlement last fall between the Oakland Raiders and the Raiderettes. The Raiderettes, prior to the settlement, earned less than $5 an hour. Now, the cheerleaders’ will earn $9 an hour including overtime. The Bucs cheerleaders’ settlement is similar. Plus, many of the cheerleaders will receive back pay.
Most squads sue their respective teams, but the Buffalo Bills cheerleaders’ (The Jills’) lawsuit involves the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell. Although this lawsuit appears to include the most egregious treatment of NFL cheerleaders, there has been no reported settlement for the Jills and the Bills. The Bills are claiming that the Jills are not employees of the Bills and are not entitled to compensation from the team. However, a New York Supreme Court Judge said that there was evidence to support the Jills claim: that they are likely employees of the Bills and are thus entitled to proper compensation.
The NFL brings in about $9 billion a year in revenue and compensates the players handsomely for their efforts. The cheerleaders enhance the brand of the teams, which is evidenced by the many rules they must follow. Even though the Raiders and Buccaneers are not winning any titles these days, at least their cheerleaders will now receive proper compensation to make cheering a little more worthwhile. This bodes well for other squads who may come forward in the future to obtain proper compensation for their long hours of work.