The NFL has a strict set of rules that cheerleaders must follow. Bailey Davis, a former New Orleans Saints’ cheerleader, was fired for a personal Instagram post the team disapproved. The picture featured her in a one-piece outfit. The team described it as her “appearing nude, semi-nude, or in lingerie.” Sadly, cheerleaders have been fired for far more innocent acts than using their social media accounts. In the last decade, several NFL cheerleaders rulebooks have leaked. One team forces cheerleaders to learn which players are married before interacting with them!
Bailey Davis’ Fight For Equal Rights
Bailey Davis says cheerleaders and players are held unfairly to drastically different standards. In March, she filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In her defense, Bailey detailed how archaic and lost in sexist time New Orleans’ rules are.
The specific rules, which we’ll get to soon, outline a world where women have no rights. These biased gender requirements punish women for nearly everything they do on and off the field. NFL players, meanwhile, tend to avoid scrutiny unless the police get involved.
Cheerleaders Are Replaceable
The Oakland Raiders’ rulebook reminds the Raiderettes that they are easily replaceable. The rulebook, revealed in 2012, states, “people come to see football and will still come whether or not we have cheerleaders.”
Some teams have eliminated cheerleading programs to avoid controversy. The Packers haven’t employed cheerleaders since 1988.
Covering Skin Costs Cheerleaders A Lot Of Money
On Tuesdays, Raiderette’s must wear, “a 2 piece outfit consisting of a sports bra-type top and shorts.” If they wear anything that doesn’t, “reveal the body from under the bust line” they are fined $10. Continued failure to be sexy enough in practice will get them fired.
Getting a check of $125 for one game means most teams pay less than $5 an hour. For all the hard work, some cheerleaders finish the year barely making $1,000.
Being A Sexual Assault Victim Is A Fireable Offense
The NFL doesn’t state the rule that way, but it’s not hard to read between the lines. Most NFL teams dissuade cheerleaders from socializing with players. One team tells cheerleaders explicitly that being the victim will damage their reputation.
The flawed logic showcases how out of touch NFL teams are. In a way, forcing cheerleaders to remain quiet helps the team enforce their invasive practices, including the “jiggle test.”
The “Jiggle Test” Is A Real Requirement To Be An NFL Cheerleader
To become a Buffalo Jill cheerleaders are forced undergo a weekly “jiggle test” to ensure their bodies maintain team standards. During these tests, cheerleaders do jumping jacks while having their butts, breasts, and stomachs judged.
Depending on how much a woman’s body jiggles, they may or may not be “physically fit enough” to be on the sideline for gameday. Any cheerleader seen as too jiggly is suspended or fired.
Wearing Underwear On The Job Is Strictly Prohibited
The Cincinnati Bengals require the Ben-Gals leave their panties at home during practice and game days. No reason is given in the rulebook. It’s stated as a matter-of-fact; failure to follow the rules will result in a termination of employment.
Perhaps more invasive, the Ben-Gals are not allowed to have “slouching breasts.” In regards to their bras, the rules state: “Support as needed. Black or nude seamless bra mandatory for games.” As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll be shocked to find out what cheerleaders need to do before socializing with players.
Knowing Which Players Are Married Is The Cheerleaders’ Responsibility
The Oakland Raiders won’t stop cheerleaders from socializing with players as long as they are single. The team tells its squad not to ask players directly if they are married. The player will lie. Instead, any cheerleader who wants to be friends with a player must research whether or not they are married.
Don’t worry, though, the Raiders understand this can be burdensome and offer support. They encourage Raiderettes to “call the Raider office with questions as to marital status… Again, he will not tell you he’s married!” And don’t forget, this is all to protect the cheerleader. It’s their reputation on the line, not the player.
Perfection Is A Job Requirement, Even Off The Clock
With how little money cheerleaders make, you’ll be shocked to know they are never really “off the clock.” Teams explain in the rulebooks how cheerleaders are required to dress outside of the facility on their own time. One team refers to the public as a client who, “assumes you are professional and close to perfect. Be sure you are.”
Another team reminds cheerleaders they are public figures. Cell phone cameras are always at a fans side, waiting for the perfect moment.
Management Decides How Cheerleaders Use Makeup And Wear Their Hair
Teams tell cheerleaders how they can wear their hair, what makeup they can wear, and what nail polish they can use. The Ben-Gals must avoid frosted eyes shadows and lipstick. “Management” will decide their “proper color analysis” if they have questions.
The Buffalo Jills are required to have a natural polish or French manicure. Their hair must be “full curled or slightly bent.” Once that’s taken care, it’s time to step on the scale!
Being Three Pounds “Overweight” Costs A Paycheck
The Bengals are so strict with the weight of their cheerleaders that they have weigh-ins every two weeks. Before each season, the Ben-Gals report their weight to the team. If a cheerleader is three pounds over or under, she’s benched. After practice, she stays 30 minutes for extra conditioning.
One cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens showed up practice for the Super Bowl and weighed in “heavy.” The team didn’t let her perform.
Cheerleaders Must Be Happy At All Times And Never Question Authority
Cheerleaders must portray happiness at all times. When the job gets tough, they are required to smile and keep quiet. The Raiderettes are instructed not to use slang, innuendos, crude language, or “negative facial expressions.”
In the Ben-Gals rulebook, it states, “ABSOLUTELY NO ARGUING OR QUESTIONING THE PERSON IN AUTHORITY!!!” The Buffalo Jills rulebook takes the cake though, “do not complain about anything – ever hang out with a whiner? It’s exhausting and boring.”
Even In Private, Properness Is A Must
Not allowed any real private time, cheerleaders are prisoners of their jobs. Instructions for one team’s cheerleaders says, “always say ‘excuse me’ when you burp, sneeze or cough. Even if you think there isn’t anyone around.”
Teams go so far they control what words and phrases cheerleaders use. The Bills won’t allow the Jills to say, “I seen it,” “dude,” “ain’t,” “you’s guys,” and “pee.” They also cannot have opinions on topics like politics, religion, the previous night, or sexual preferences. Going too far, some teams even instruct cheerleaders how to clean themselves.
Female Hygiene Is Anything But Private
The Buffalo Bills give detailed instruction on how the Jills should wash their feet and shave. They also provide guidelines for very private matters.
As disturbing as this is, the Jills’rulebook gives instructions on how to handle periods. Specifically, it says what hygiene products should be used, for how long, and what size. Some “concerns” should be left alone for individuals to take care of.
To Make Extra Money, Cheerleaders Are Forced To Sell The Team Calendar
Part of a cheerleaders job, for some reason, is to sell that their calendar to the public. Of course, before they sell, they must buy the calendar for stock.
The Ravens cheerleaders each buy 100 calendars at a slightly discounted price of $12. They sell them for $15 a piece, making a small profit. Calendars aren’t the only thing Cheerleaders have to buy. Most teams make them buy their uniforms too!
Uniforms Don’t Come Cheap
Making matters worse, each cheerleader must pay for their uniform. The cost can be hundreds of dollars. To help pay for their outfit and still have money at the end of the season, cheerleaders can’t opt out of programs like calendar sales or local events.
When the reality of the situation sets in, the final income, previously stated at less than half of minimum wage, is much lower. The Ben-Gals reported their earning in 2015 at $2.85 per hour.
The NFL Isn’t The Only League With A Mistreatment Problem
Speaking with Teen Vogue, a cheerleader for the Memphis Grizzlies was candid when describing her life under team control. Len Elmore, who danced for Memphis in 2012, accepted her role, “I understood the bigger picture… I don’t want to say we are their disposal, but they place you where they see fit.”
Tired of being placed without a voice, NFL cheerleaders are fighting back and gaining major victories in the process.
Lacy T. Sues The Raiders For $1.25 Million And Wins
In 2014, Raiderette Lacy T. sued the Oakland Raiders on behalf 90 Oakland cheerleaders. According to the Los Angeles Times report, Lacy T. wanted repayment of missing wages and repayment of funds.
When the lawsuit was settled, the Raiderettes won back 1.25 million in wages and damages.
The Ben-Gals Win $255,000 In Back Pay
In 2015 the Cincinnati Ben-Gals sued the team for back pay, winning $255,000. They claimed event payment equaled an hourly wage of $2.85 per hour. For comparison, team owner Mike Brown is worth $924 million. He doesn’t need to be cut corners when it comes to his employees.
The Bengals maintain innocence and, “continue to deny any liability or wrongdoing with respect to the alleged facts and causes of action asserted in the lawsuit.”
The Buffalo Jills Go On Hiatus
One year before the Ben-Gals beat Cincinnati, the Jills took on Buffalo. The lawsuit alleged the team forced the woman to work public events for free and exposed them to various forms of sexual harassment.
The case is still in legislation, but an appeal by the NFL failed in 2016. The ruling upheld the Jills lawsuit as a class action lawsuit. Until the matter is resolved, Buffalo has placed its cheerleading program on indefinite hiatus.
Buccaneers Lose $825,000 Lawsuit To Cheerleaders
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders sued the team in 2015 to recoup lost and missing wages. Manouchehr Pierre-Val filed the lawsuit, claiming she was paid less than two dollars an hour working for the organization.
The team settled with Pierre-Val for $825,000. She split the amount with 90 other former employees the Buccaneers paid unfairly. The bottom line is as more mistreatment about cheerleaders is made public, more lawsuits will be filed until teams step up and treat cheerleaders equally.