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Posts Tagged ‘NFL cheerleaders’

The utterly nonsensical way NFL cheerleaders must live their lives comes out in discrimination suit

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

It’s no secret that NFL cheerleaders are underpaid, undervalued, and held to ridiculous beauty standards by NFL organizations.

But on Sunday, the New York Times published an infuriating report that reveals that some teams exert almost maniacal control over both the public image and personal lives of cheerleaders — all based on toxic, outdated notions of how both men and women should behave.

The article tells the story of Bailey Davis, a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader who has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The main issue at hand involves the restrictions that NFL teams routinely put in place barring players from fraternizing with their respective team’s cheerleaders. As it turns out, the Saints are so particularly worried about the matter that they put the impetus fully on the cheerleaders to avoid NFL players in all social situations, be it on social media, at a restaurant, or at a party.

In her complaint, Davis claims she was fired by the Saints for posting a photo of herself in a one-piece bathing suit on her private Instagram and for attending a party at which Saints players may have been in attendance. On the latter charge, Davis denies that she violated any team regulation. But as the report makes clear, undertaking a good faith effort to avoid NFL players in this fashion may simply be an unreasonable thing to expect of anyone.

According to the Times, keeping themselves away from NFL players on social media and in person is a never-ending job for Saints cheerleaders, who are considered part-time, contract employees, and barely earn minimum wage.

Cheerleaders are told not to dine in the same restaurant as players, or speak to them in any detail. If a Saints cheerleader enters a restaurant and a player is already there, she must leave. If a cheerleader is in a restaurant and a player arrives afterward, she must leave. There are nearly 2,000 players in the N.F.L., and many of them use pseudonyms on social media. Cheerleaders must find a way to block each one, while players have no limits on who can follow them.

These rules are offensive on multiple fronts. First of all, they put sole responsibility for behavior on the women, making it their duty to ensure they don’t in any way “tempt” football players. It also insinuates that their mere presence is an enticement of sorts, that they’re inviting sexual attention or even harassment merely by living their lives or posting pictures on social media.

It also paints NFL players as men who lack self-control, the ability to behave properly around women, or the capacity to follow simple rules.

The difference in rules and regulations between men and women is the crux of Davis’s EEOC gender discrimination complaint. In the suit, she argues that she qualifies as “NFL personnel,” which means the NFL’s personal conduct policy applies to her as well as her fellow cheerleaders.

That same personal conduct policy prohibits any discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Davis asserts that because the rules governing both social media use, as well as who is allowed to be with whom in public, are restrictions that are only placed on cheerleaders. As the team cheerleaders are all women, Davis argues that this is a form of discrimination.

“If the cheerleaders can’t contact the players, then the players shouldn’t be able to contact the cheerleaders,” Sara Blackwell, Davis’s lawyer, told the Times. “The antiquated stereotype of women needing to hide for their own protection is not permitted in America and certainly not in the workplace.”

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on March 26, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Lindsay Gibbs is a sports reporter at ThinkProgress.

AFL-CIO Stands with NFL Cheerleader and Oakland Raiderette Lacy T.

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Jackie TortoraCheerleading for professional sports is more than sporting sparkly midriff-baring tops, white cowboy boots and zipping off to calendar shoots…it’s a job. And it’s demanding.

Between mandatory practices, public appearances, strict image guidelines that require lots of money for upkeep and performing at the games, it’s a lot of hard work.

Generally people are paid for the work they do in a formal employment relationship. But unfortunately, that’s not a reality for NFL cheerleaders. Because it’s a “love what you do” kind of job, many of these women are taken advantage of in the form of wage theft. And Lacy T., an Oakland Raiderette, took a very strong stand against wage theft earlier this year when she filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders.

According to ESPN, the lawsuit alleged that the Raiders failed to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage for all hours worked, withheld pay until the end of the season, required cheerleaders to cover their own business expenses, don’t provide lunch breaks and impose fines for minor infractions—all of which, according to the suit, constitute violations of the California Labor Code.

ESPN writer Amanda Hess makes the case that even though the NFL is hugely profitable and football players, by coming together in their union, are able to collectively bargaining for better wages, cheerleaders are still seen as expendable.

Of the 26 teams that employ cheerleaders, only Seattle publicly advertises that it pays its squad an hourly minimum wage. The tenuous position of NFL cheerleaders is exacerbated by the fact that six teams don’t fork out any cash for squads.

We see it happening with Walmart workers. We see it happening with paid sick days. Women workers all over the country are linking arms and demanding better workplaces—and they’re winning.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler took notice of Lacy T.’s story and sent her a letter this week commending her courage:

I was very moved by your courage in standing up to some very powerful interests. It reminds me of the many union members we represent, especially women, who are lifting up their voices in workplaces all over the country, often against overwhelming odds. I believe your willingness to speak out will be a turning point toward a better future for other young women who want to take their skills and experience to the professional level.

In a statement, Lacy T. said:

I love being a Raiderette, but someone has to stand up for all of the women of the NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams….I hope cheerleaders across the NFL will step forward to join me in demanding respect and fair compensation.

This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on April 11, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jackie Tortora is the blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.

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