In recent weeks, three different NFL teams have had lawsuits filed against them by current and/or former members of cheerleading squads for various alleged wage violations.
For now, the NFL has nothing to say publicly about the developments.
“We do not have a comment on these team litigation issues,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email on Thursday. “We are following developments.”
It’s wise for the NFL to be keeping an eye on the litigation. It would be even wiser for the NFL to be privately giving its teams unambiguous advice regarding the appropriate tactics for managing and compensating their cheerleaders.
It’s unclear how widespread the litigation will become. So far, the Raiders, Bengals, and Bills have been sued for not paying appropriate wages to cheerleaders.
For some teams, an obligation to pay fair wages, as enforced by litigation, could prompt teams to ditch the cheerleading function entirely, as the Bills have done (at least for now). If teams aren’t willing to pay fair wages that comply with the law, then they should get out of the cheerleading business.
But no team can say it’s not able to afford the minimum wage for all hours worked for the cheerleading squad. These are billion-dollar businesses, and some of them allegedly (or actually) have taken advantage of a situation in which the sense of competition for a spot on the squad easily can overcome a willingness to insist on proper compensation.
Even if the league decides to not publicly address the situation, anything that reflects poorly on a team in turn reflects poorly on the league, and in turn tarnishes the shield.