Cheering For A Check

One NFL team has disbanded its cheerleading squad in a pay dispute that has so far generated five lawsuits alleging improper pay and bad working conditions. 

Photo: AP Photo / Rick Scuteri
Arizona Cardinals cheerleaders during a game against the San Diego Chargers Sept. 8. 

The Buffalo Bills chose to disband its squad after being hit with twin lawsuits alleging the team violated minimum wage laws, according to the Wall Street Journal, while the Oakland Raiders reached a tentative settlement Sept. 4 to pay 90 women $1.25 million in back pay.

Former members of the Buffalo Jills told the paper they were required to put in at least 16 hours per week including practice and game-day cheering, all in exchange for free entry to the game and a parking pass.

It’s the worst example among the five teams that have been sued. Cheerleaders for the New York Jets allege they were paid $150 per game day; the Raiderettes made $125; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders, $100; and squad members for the Cincinnati Bengals were paid $45 for off-the-field work and $90 on game day.

The lawsuits are just part of a larger dispute over income inequality, such as the rash of lawsuits filed in the entertainment industry by unpaid interns who claim they do the work of well-paid employees and protests by minimum-wage, fast-food workers.

The lawsuits may be having an effect, according to the Journal. The Raiders not only agreed to back pay, but have been paying its cheer squad members minimum wage since last year, and the Buccaneers this year changed team policy to also comply with minimum wage laws.