Wai Sallas takes a look at the current state of gender equality in the NFL workplace and doesn’t like what he sees.
While the rest of the nation witnesses record growth of gender equality in the workplace, the NFL does its best to prove cave men still exist.
Where do we start?
Do we start at the Buffalo Jills, the recently disbanded Buffalo Bills organization who paid their cheerleaders with entrance to the game (to work) and a $25 parking pass?
How about with the Raiders, who thought it best to pay the famed Raiderettes at the end of the season (instead of bi-weekly), and underpay them at that?
Or perhaps the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Tampa Buccaneers can shed light on why they are at the end of lawsuits violating wage laws?
In 2008, Sarah Palin was several percentage points away from being the Vice President of the United States. Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for President in 2016. In a Pew Research study of Social & Demographic trends, “Young working women today are making more money relative to men their age than their mothers and grandmothers did. This is due not only to the rising earnings of women, but also to the falling earnings of men. “
Today’s young women are starting their careers better educated than their male counterparts. Yet, women still on average make 77 cents to every dollar a man earns.
If only the inequality ended at pay. Today’s New York Times article, Buffalo Bills’ Cheerleaders Fight for Wages and Respect, details a story you might think came from a college fraternity in 1955, not a golf tournament held by the Buffalo Bills’ cheerleading squad in 2014.
“The Jills were required to attend a golf tournament for sponsors. The high rollers paid cash — ‘Flips for Tips’ – to watch bikini-clad cheerleaders do back flips. Afterward, the men placed bids on which women would ride around in their golf carts. The carts had no extra seats. Women clung to the back or, much more to the point, were invited to sit in the men’s laps.”
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook; Mary T. Barra is the CEO of General Motors.
A contractor for the Bills, however “required each cheerleader to visit a sponsor who was a plastic surgeon. He offered a small discount if they opted for breast augmentation and other services,” said Brendan Bannon, author of the Times article.
In September, the Raiders reached a settlement with their cheerleaders involving the team playing the Raiderettes $1.25 million.
Two Raiderettes had filed a lawsuit in January claiming the team withheld the cheerleaders’ pay until after the season, didn’t fairly compensate the women for all their hours of work and asked the cheerleaders to pay for many of their own business expenses. The lawsuit also alleged improper working conditions.
What does winning look like? The Raiderettes will now earn $9/hour including overtime, the minimum wage in California.
Incidentally, prior to settling, the NFL denied it could be held responsible, arguing that based on its antitrust exemption, it was “immune from all state Labor Code provisions.”
As the NFL continues to play damage control in their handling of domestic violence and relationships with women, it seems they just don’t get it.
Every NFL cheerleader does not cheer to earn a living. All NFL cheerleaders try out for the same reason we cheer from the stands and from home; they want to be a part of something bigger, greater than themselves.
It’s a shame while we cheer we are reminded to respect other fans in the name of decency and sportsmanship. Those who lead the cheers, however, the most prominent fans, don’t get that same respect.
Photo Credit: Associated Press/Rex Features