The NFL’s Next Nightmare: Minimum Wage for Cheerleaders

Posted: Sep 13, 2014 12:01 AM

The minimum wage debate is, apparently, much broader than just hamburger flippers and gas station clerks. As the National Football League begins the 2014-2015 season, at least a handful of teams are struggling to keep their cheerleaders dancing on the sidelines without shelling out a few extra dollars. In fact, the Buffalo Bills cheerleading squad (punnily named the Buffalo Jills) are taking to the picket line instead of the sideline.

Five NFL teams are currently being sued by their cheerleading squads. (I have to imagine this isn’t exactly the morale-boosting activities that scantily clad women are supposed to bring to an organization.) At issue is the generally low pay women receive for dancing at games, at fundraisers, and various off-field appearances. In many cases, the hyper-happy women are only compensated for a portion of such activities – meaning that they file a 1040ez for very meager earnings by the end of the year.

Most teams contract their cheerleading services (yes, that’s an actual service) to independent companies. Many others consider their squads “seasonal workers”, allowing them to skirt certain minimum wage laws. Of course, in the world of Liberal hysteria (where fast food workers deserve a “livable” wage), some pundits are having a hissy-fit over the NFL’s apparent lack of concern for their cheerleader’s financial wellbeing.

Bloomberg LP even managed to compare those poor End-Zone dancers to migrant workers in California during the 1940s:

Yeah… Lots of similarities. I mean, aside from the fact that California migrant workers, in the 1930s, were largely tradesmen trying to support an entire family while grappling with the impacts of America’s greatest economic depression, yeah… it’s totally the same thing. Of course, our economically-illiterate experts also pontificated that the NFL should just pay these girls a little more… I mean heck, they have the money. Right?

Now, don’t get me wrong: Cheerleaders are a nice bonus to any sport. (I keep waiting for golf to get with the times, and hire some dancers for the 9th and 18th hole.) But, let’s face it: They don’t exactly rake in the profits for the team. Their value to the game is, honestly, peripheral. The truth is that cheerleaders – just like hamburger flippers, car mechanics, and even neurosurgeons – get paid (roughly) what they are worth to any given organization. And if they feel their life-skill of cheering is greater than the compensation they are offered, they are more than welcome to post their résumé on Yahoo jobs.

It’s pretty simple: If you want to make a lot of money, as a woman, cheerleading might not be the right career path. After all, I don’t know of any woman being forced to cheer against her will. (Well… Not professionally. Sometimes peer pressure plays a role in various group settings.) My guess is – and this is only a guess – dancing around on the sidelines in a skimpy outfit bears slightly less, in both demand and intrinsic value, to the organization than some of the other positions within any given NFL team. And, if I’m wrong, I guess cheerleaders will start seeing their pay rise as teams clamor to keep their girls dancing near each end-zone.

That doesn’t mean everything in the world of cheerleading is fair. (Heck, not everyone has that kind of physique… Isn’t that discriminatory on some level?) But, in the end, a team will only pay a cheerleader (or a janitor, or a ticket clerk, or a running-back) for the value they bring to the organization. And while most of us would rather watch 90 seconds of the Buffalo Jills than a few minutes of Bloomberg LP, the Jills are compensated in accordance with their importance to the team.

Maybe our empathetic financial hosts can fork over some of their paycheck to supplement the Jills this season… Or, is it not that important to them?