Raiderette lawsuits have legs and the NFL isn’t cheering

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On the surface, several late-night talk show monologue zingers lie in wait about the Raiderette lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders and, more recently, the National Football League.

Stuff like: If the Raidettes are complaining about how little they’re making to give the product on the field the spirit finger, fans of the Silver and Black should demand at least minimum wage to watch as well.

…Which would ostensibly double most Raider fans’ incomes.

Compensating the Raider fan might give JaMarcus Russell a way to play out the remaining years on his contract—as a member of the Black Hole (earlier attempts to suit him up as a concessionaire failed as he wasn’t able to throw a bag of peanuts to a paying customer prior to being sacked or needing “a break”).

(Last one) …The defense calls on the Raiderettes in court saying, “Pleeeeease, welcome to the staaaaand…”

…Laugh it up now, but in its alleged illegal and insulting treatment of its hair-whipping eye candy, there is a similar, if not more subversive and sinister undercurrent of sexism coursing through NFL’s cheap- and cronytastic veins.

No, the NFL will never earn employer-of-the-year accolades.

Any league which gave its commissioner a significant raise after he and his all-star legal team bamboozled its pensioners out of hundreds of millions in a class-action concussion settlement while countless former players continue to suffer the consequences in the forms of broken homes, domestic violence and suicide (and that’s just the above-the-neck variety) is likely going to manipulate the plight of the shiny bangles of hair weaves and spray tan who make for great cutaway shots and trolling sports site slideshows into something of a sexist joke (see: above).

Yes, the league’s disdain for both current and former employees between the lines is now matched with vitriol for its slo-mo boot-scootin’ dancers on its sidelines.

And it has manifested once more in the form of legal action.

The original cheerleader lawsuit was filed in January by Raiderette plaintiffs Lacy T. and Sarah G. Since the filing, the Department of Labor opened an investigation into the organization’s cheer policies with regards to wages paid and treatment of members of the cheer team. The cheerleaders’ attorney said the case will go to arbitration with the team next month according to an agreement reached with the Raiders last week.

Arbitration against the club itself is a not-so-minor victory for the cheerleaders and bad news for individual teams under the NFL umbrella. The cheerleaders’ contracts stipulated any dispute had to be settled in arbitration overseen by the NFL itself. The league’s legal muscle may have quashed any hopes the Raider cheerleaders had against the ghost of Al Davis.

In a fortuitous turn for the cheerleaders, the agreement appears to be a clear a path for the claim to proceed as a class-action lawsuit—which means cheerleaders from around the league can form a bi-coastal kick line to knee the NFL in the only place it can feel a hit: Not above the shoulders or between the legs, but in the rear pocket.

Amongst the cheerleaders’ monetary claims is they were paid less than $5 an hour once rehearsals and mandatory events were factored in. But that’s just the beginning.

A closer look at the Raiderette’s cheerleader handbook shows the “girls”, who are referred to as “football’s fabulous females”, how to do everything from flirting with the fan base (“You probably looked at their hair, jewelry, facial expressions, style of clothes, shoes and nails. Smile, shake hands with everyone.”), to getting out of eating dinner like a lady do (“If you don’t like your meal, try a little of everything and strategically move the rest around your plate.”)—all while raking in $1,250/season, almost enough to buy this 1997 Geo Metro free and clear. That’s 10 games, plus three practices per week, plus 10 public appearances, plus charity events and a calendar shoot. A little taste of ’70s sexploitation AND wages to match in 2014.

Lacy T., who used to dance for the neighboring Golden State Warriors, points out the discrepancy between pay and treatment from the NBA to the NFL in this Salon Q&A.

Similar cheerleader lawsuits have since cropped up against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets.

And then came last month’s follow-up suit filed by Raiderettes Caitlin Y. and Jenny C.—one that has the gusto to name the league itself. Caitlin’s and Jenny’s lawsuit filed against the Raiders in Alameda County Superior Court makes the same allegations as their groundbreaking contemporaries: they were paid less than the law requires and did not receive overtime or travel or personal care reimbursement. But unlike the other law suits, the pair actually does not shy away from the $10 billion gorilla in the room and names the NFL as co-defendant—alleging the league enabled its franchises to underpay and discriminate.

The NFL requires all contracts with nonplayers to be filed with the league, said Drexel Bradshaw, Caitlin’s and Jenny’s attorney, which makes the league responsible.

The suit also says it’s not just about the money owed: Caitlin and Jenny assert they were subjected to “degrading comments” and “grueling working conditions” that included having their bodies scrutinized each week for the slightest trace of fat; if they did not meet weight and fitness requirements, they were ostracized and sometimes penalized financially.

The women also say they were placed in numerous humiliating situations, including being forced to change into uniform in public and making promotional appearances in which they were “groped by inebriated men.”

The whole thing stinks the way most lawsuits against the NFL stink (strangely, like the smell of inebriated men). The bulletproof nonprofit which during the season enjoys, amongst other things, profiting from breast cancer awareness month—treats its employees and by association, their fans, as indentured servants. All parties south of the owners’ boxes seem to be getting a raw deal as the commissioner takes home a cool $44 million/annually for maneuvering through the lawsuits of the concussed and corseted as team valuations now surpass that of GNPs of most developing countries, or at least the small hedge funds which enjoy part ownership.

Of course, those looking forward to seeing how skimpy “Santa outfits” get this coming season, may find even fewer individual franchises taking the risks associated with underpaying and discrimination. The Bills have already suspended cheerleading operations—not that they’ve had much to cheer for—in the wake of a fair wage lawsuit filed against them this year.

Knowing the NFL and its ownership, you can bet within two years you’ll see many more of those one-legged used car lot air dancers (coming soon: with inflatable boobs) boogying on the sidelines than real, well, dancers.

After all, the NFL runs a lot smoother when actual people aren’t involved.

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