The NFL is going through a rough patch, PR-wise, if not monetarily. Deflategate. Ray Rice. Greg Hardy. Adrian Peterson. Aaron Kromer. Andrew Quarless. Google any of these and watch the NFL squirm.
And there’s one more thing.
It’s time to stop averting our eyes from the travesty that is NFL cheerleading compensation. None of NFL’s 32 rich teams should be exempt from treating their employees fairly. And yes, they are employees, even if you’ve managed to create an arrangement to call them independent contractors. No matter how their employment is structured, they are the third-most visible humans within your organization (behind the team itself and the owner).
They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t matter
And no, they’re not bottom-rung, entry-level workers. As entertainers and ambassadors, they are highly skilled, dedicated professionals. I’m not even a big fan of cheerleading at football games in general. But I don’t find them a detriment to the game. Remember the XFL? OK, that was bad. The only thing they were missing were stripper poles. NFL cheerleaders look like they just walked off the set of Little House on the Prairie by comparison.
Regardless of your opinion of the vitality of cheerleaders at football games, it’s plain to see that what they do is difficult and requires a great deal of skill and dedication. Try just one of their routines, if you dare.
NFL teams require much from their cheerleaders and most pay them peanuts. If a team believes their cheerleaders are important not only for the game day experience, but also for numerous marketing and community-related events, then they should honor these women with fair compensation for performing their assigned duties.
The demands are fierce. The compensation is not equal to the effort put forth. Should pretty women be demeaned because they love to dance? The NFL could not care less about what your answer is to the question.
As it stands now, the tide is turning — slowly. The courts have upheld recent lawsuits on behalf of women who had to fight for minimal pay. Want to be on the wrong side of history? Continue to mistreat your most visible female participants. Want to get out in front of this issue? Demand your teams pay cheerleaders fairly.
Speaking of fairness, it’s important to note that six teams do not have cheerleaders: the Chicago Bears, the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sounds like a “you” problem
Ever hear an NFL owner speak out about cheerleading compensation? They won’t. Until they’re forced to. Which has not happened yet.
The NFL office thinks they have an out from this ongoing workplace travesty: The teams hire their own cheer staff, or in several cases, the team hires another firm, which hires and manages cheerleaders as independent contractors, so the teams can point their fingers at them when workplace fairness issues are flying.
But they don’t have an out. The public identifies each team’s cheerleaders as distinctly belonging to that team. And the NFL. It’s a punk move for the NFL to claim no responsibility toward paying employees fairly when you make more than $10 billion a year.
That’s billion with a “B.” NFL owners: You use these women to create goodwill and to attract, entertain and retain fans. Pay them.
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