Oakland Raiderettes Settle Wage-and-Hour Suit for $1.25 Million

The Oakland Raiderettes will finally earn a little more than minimum wage for the estimated 350 hours of work they each put into the city's famed football franchise every year, executing rigorous cheer routines and appearing at charity events — many of which offered no remuneration.

That's at least a tentative step toward gender equality in the NFL. Traditionally, Raiderettes earned $125 per game, delivered in a single paycheck at the end of of the season. They were required to purchase equipment — including yoga mats, bras, and false eyelashes — without reimbursement. They were fined for showing up late to practice, or not bringing the right pom-poms. They were paid a pittance in comparison to mascots, who reportedly earn between $23,000 and $65,000 per year, plus benefits. 

Now the Raiders will have to disgorge $1.25 million in backpay to settle a closely watched wage theft suit with the team's cheerleaders, per an agreement hashed out yesterday. And from now on the team will pay $9 an hour, plus overtime, in a check delivered every two weeks.
[jump] That wraps up just one of seven lawsuits that have been filed against five NFL teams — including one more against the Raiders, two against the Buffalo Bills, one against the New York Jets, and one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They're all different around the edges, the Raiderettes' attorney Sharon Vinick says, but the bottom line is that these women aren't paid for all the hours they work.

Incidentally, $1.25 million is about three times what the Raiders' starting quarterback will earn in base salary this season, but there's only one of him. 

In some cases, NFL cheerleaders are also given patronizing code of conduct handbooks — which cover everything from managing menstrual flow to talking to a disabled person — or subjected to humiliations like the “jiggle test,” a now-infamous Buffalo Bills practice of scrutinizing the firmness of cheerleaders' bodies. (Fans familiar with the Raiders' barbarous reputation might be surprised to hear that its cheerleading team also gets an etiquette handbook, though it didn't appear in this suit.)

The NFL has distanced itself from these cases, saying that most teams contract to a third party to manage their cheerleading squads. While that's certainly true, it doesn't absolve the league for condoning execrable working conditions and flagrant gender inequality. And it's not clear that the teams didn't dictate some of these policies, Vinick says. 

“It's safe to say the NFL had a hand in them,” she told SF Weekly when the case was proceeding in July. “They may contract to another party, but the teams are really controlling what's going on.”

Over summer, NFL cheerleaders launched their own Change.org petition demanding that the league pay its female workers a living wage. They've turned the payment issue into a massive cause celebre, suggesting there may be bigger pay days  — and hopefully, bigger reforms — down the line.

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