As more and more members of more and more NFL cheerleading squads take a stand against alleged wage violations, the effort could soon go to the next level.
A former member of the Buffalo Jills tells Andrea Kremer of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that the league’s cheerleading squads soon may attempt to unionize.
“We’re looking into possibly developing some type of union for girls going forward,” the former Jills cheerleader named Maria tells Kremer in an interview that debuts on June 24 at 10:00 p.m. ET. “So we’re not doing this to benefit ourselves. We’re, you know, done with cheering. This is for the future of the team, the future of these girls.”
While it’s debatable whether having a union would help, having the threat of a union along with enough employees who are willing to pursue litigation could prompt all teams to treat the cheerleaders fairly and legally. The Bills, Raiders, Bengals, Buccaneers, and Jets currently face allegations of wage violations.
To date, some teams have preyed on the reality that, given the competitive nature of the job, the candidates will suffer a variety of indignities — including getting paid less than minimum wage or not getting paid at all.
“[D]oes it make it right?” a former Raiderette named Lacy said regarding the fact that many others happily would tolerate those conditions. “Tons of people would love to be a reporter. Does that mean you don’t deserve to be paid for your talent, for your time, for your hard work?”
The NFL continues to decline to address the situation, and for good reason. In an era where the NFL attracts female fans by allowing the color pink to infiltrate in October the otherwise sacrosanct NFL uniform, evidence that female employees are being exploited and mistreated could alienate members of their gender.
Regardless of gender, it’s wrong to take advantage of people who would do a job for free if they had to. Whether through litigation, legislation, or unionization, the time has come for change. The only question is whether the change will happen before the situation becomes an embarrassment for the NFL.
It’s probably already too late for that.