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A few weeks ago, the cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders (known as the Raiderettes) sued the Raiders franchise for illegal payment practices. The allegations include withholding all pay until after the end of the season, only being paid for a portion of hours worked, and forcing the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses. Overall, the Raiderettes estimate their current wage comes out to less than $5 an hour. Total season pay is about $1,250, but that’s before various fines [! -- Ed.] and the costs of covering their own hair, makeup, travel, and photo expenses are accounted for.
Last week, a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader field a class action lawsuit, claiming she makes about $2.85 an hour, since she made only $855 for an estimated 300 hours worked. This is far below Ohio’s $5 per hour minimum wage. The “Ben-Gals” are paid $90 per game if they are selected to cheer, but those not chosen make only half that. In addition, the Ben-Gals lawsuit also claims that the cheerleaders are subjected to strict clothing and conditioning requirements and to stiff penalties if they do not meet the twice-weekly weigh-in targets within three pounds.
The primary issue in that case is that the cheerleaders are paid only for time spent at a game, and get nothing for attending practices or any other commitments. However, some say the figures are misleading and not representative of all the monetary benefits of the job because they exclude the additional opportunities for income that come with being a cheerleader. Outside appearance pay does not come from the team and can be highly lucrative.
With the recent political focus on raising the minimum wage, these lawsuits were filed at the perfect time. It’s unlikely the public will stand for someone trying out every year, qualifying, and cheering for players — who often lock in millions of dollars a year for years at a time — getting less than minimum wage. In the end, though, their wage claims will depend on whether courts agree with the method used to calculate the hourly wages they have alleged.
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