The NFL Needs to Start Paying Cheerleaders Yesterday


As we sit on the cusp of another Superbowl, the greed orgy that is the NFL continues unabated. Superbowl tickets start at $5000 on the secondary market. The middle class has effectively been relegated to watching the championship game on TV, save for winning tickets in a contest. Professional football continues to reap multi-billion-dollar TV deals while its affordability for bedrock fans slips away.

In the wake of the Colin Kaepernick affair, the NFL sought to banish both his play and his activism from memory. The 49ers reportedly omitted him from a team photo display at Levi Stadium despite his leading them to a Superbowl appearance. Feeling the heat in the wake of the George Floyd murder and similar deaths of black men at the hands of police, the league staged “workouts” for Kaepernick to showcase his skills.

He was never resigned. Reports of a confidential settlement of his grievances was rumored. Despite his being railroaded out of the league, the NFL has sought to brand itself as a diversity leader with bumper sticker-like slogans on the field and on players equipment. Billionaire rapper Jay-Z was brought in as a consultant to advise.

You cannot watch an NFL game today without seeing signs like “End Racism” or “Be The Difference”. Still, not everyone is buying the virtue signaling. Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is suing the NFL for racial discrimination in head coach hiring practices. Steve Wilks and Ray Horton have joined the lawsuit.

To its credit, the NFL and its teams have made progress diversifying its workforce. Women are well represented on every team’s non-player payroll including some coaching positions. There are women referees and trainers visible on the field at every game. While female ownership is usually acquired through inheritance, many NFL teams boast women among top ranked executives.

The NFL’s Buffalo Jills successfully sued their employer for failure to pay minimum wage. Minimum wage is still too low for the value of their work, but it’s a starting point for negotiation. As a long-time Bills season ticket holder, I can attest to the value the Jills brought to the fan experience. Not only were they lovely and talented dancers, but wonderful team ambassadors and nice people as well.

The NFL is no longer simply sport. It is a touchstone of western popular culture. If western culture is about fairness, equality and opportunity, it’s ideals must be backed with action and paycheques. The Denver Broncos just sold for a record 4.65 billion dollars. What further excuses exist to refuse cheerleaders payment? NBA cheerleaders are paid, albeit modestly. Non-payment of cheerleaders isn’t just wrong, it’s an insult and an abomination.

The optics of having properly compensated female executives, trainers, and referees is not consistent with other unpaid work performed by women. If the NFL is the great equity and diversity leader its slogans would have us believe, it must pay cheerleaders. Waiting for controversy to force its hand will only confirm the league an amoral greed-a-thon that treats workplace fairness like a forgettable marketing buzzword.

NFL cheerleaders have spent years fighting for justice. Why don’t we take them seriously?
or Mhkeeba Pate, no Super Bowl will ever beat the 2014 game. Her hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks, fought from…

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