It often seems that a day cannot go by without finding something to truly hate about the NFL. Despite being a football (and Bears) fan, I have long found the NFL itself to operate just slightly above the level of the Barbary Pirate kingdoms. We can add the abusive treatment of cheerleaders. California this month moved to become the first state to require that cheerleaders be paid minimum wage by teams. While lawyers have long insisted that they already qualify for such pay, some NFL teams have been pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars while paying cheerleaders either nothing or the equivalent of $5 an hour. The “Buffalo Jills” for example were paid nothing. Nothing by a time that featured them and pulled in millions for televised games.
New York is also considering such legislation.
The teams appear to be basing their lack of support — and decency — on a claim that the cheerleaders are independent contractors and performed for the honor of being NFL cheerleaders. I would love to see that claim extend to players (though in the case of the Bears, we give $120 million of a quarterback who often seems to be playing for the other team).
Consider the Raiders, who pay their cheerleaders just $1,250 per season (while overpaid players are given tens of thousands of dollars a game to just show up on top of their million plus a year salaries). That translates to $5 an hour. The lawyers for the Raiderettes were recently successful in securing a $1.25 settlement.
What is amazing is that this is an incredibly tiny cost to these team owners and the NFL. There should not be the need for multiple lawsuits and legislation to get owners to act like human beings.