Lawmakers to NFL: Cheerleaders Deserve to Be Treated Like Human Beings

The Oakland Raiderettes in 2014. In July of this year, California passed a law saying pro cheerleaders should be paid at least minimum wage.Thurman James/Cal Sport Media/ZUMA

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Before the start of a new football season Thursday, policymakers from across the country are urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to address an old problem: The mistreatment of the women cheering on the sidelines. Nineteen lawmakers from eight states sent a letter to Goodell on Wednesday urging teams to pay cheerleaders minimum wage.

The letter comes after cheerleaders from five NFL teams—the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cincinnatti Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—sued their respective teams last year for sub-minimum-wage pay and degrading working conditions (think “jiggle tests” and fines for bringing the wrong pom-poms). Though the allegations in each lawsuit differed slightly, they centered on a core issue: Cheerleaders are currently classified as independent contractors rather than employees, allowing teams to pay meager wages and constantly threaten to cut members from the squad. The lawsuits led California policymakers to pass a law in July classifying cheerleaders for pro teams as employees.

“We shouldn’t have to go state by state to make this happen,” says New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who introduced similar legislation to protect cheerleaders earlier this year. “The NFL should make it a league policy.”

The letter, signed by policymakers from eight states, urges Goodell to classify cheerleaders as employees. Given the similarities in the five lawsuits, it reads, “there is reason to believe that the issue of misclassification and wage theft is not just prevalent among the teams that have been sued.”

Read the full letter below:

 

 

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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