Nickel and diming football cheerleaders

Two cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders football team, identified as just Lacy T. and Sarah G. have initiated a class-action lawsuit against the team alleging ‘wage theft’, denying them compensation that they feel they are entitled to. They are not paid for practices or overtime or for other appearances like at charity events, which results in them getting paid at roughly $5 per hour, which is below the California minimum wage. Plus they only get paid at the end of the season so they have to pay their own expenses up front. As Lacy T. says, she was surprised by this since football teams make so much money.

I came from an NBA team — I danced with the Golden State Warriors for two seasons, and …they paid us more than the minimum wage. I got paid for every hour I worked, on two-week periods. I had zero out of pocket expenses.

So coming from that and joining the NFL, and with the Raiders, right off the bat I was spending money out of my pocket. Week after week I was traveling to these photo shoots and mini-camp. And it was the point when I said, “Wow, I’ve spent over $500 this month, and I’m not going to even see a paycheck until next year?”

Robin Abcarian provides some details from the handbook given to cheerleaders that explains why their take-home pay is so low

“If you miss a Saturday rehearsal or weekday rehearsal (as in the final rehearsal prior to a game day performance), you will not be allowed to cheer that game. This means you will be fined 1 1/2 absences for the missed rehearsal and $125 will be deducted from your end of season pay for not performing on that game day. You will be notified if you are required to perform the pre-game and/or halftime routine and then remain in the dressing room for the duration of the game…Since three lates equal one absence and missing any rehearsal before a game is 1 1/2 absences, you can find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.”

It is clear from the interviews that these women gave that they love to dance and enjoy what they do and want to do it. But that is not a reason to take advantage of them and not pay them properly.


  1. says

    Do they have scholarships for cheerleading?

    Or, more to the point – they have scholarships for male-only football and not for more gender-neutral cheerleading? I do assume they have males on the cheerleading squad, right? Right?

  2. doublereed says

    Marcus, also, I don’t think it’s officially categorized as a “sport” for corporate and arbitrary reasons. That’s a controversy in of itself.

    Although, I’m not sure if the acrobatics of highschool and college cheerleading has gone into professional cheerleading. Is professional cheerleading as intense as the highschool/college counterparts?

  3. Chiroptera says

    Plus they only get paid at the end of the season so they have to pay their own expenses up front.

    Wait, what? Who the hell still does stuff like that?

    I have an idea! Maybe the NFL can pay cheerleaders in special NFL scrip that can be redeemed in special NFL general stores. And, if in the end, they owe more money than their paychecks, they can keep being cheerleaders until they pay it all off!

  4. kyoseki says

    I am, incidentally, completely unsurprised that it’s Oakland pulling this shit, the team’s owner is notorious for being tight fisted, but I don’t know whether the situation is any better elsewhere.

    I believe that only one team in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, actually has a full time professional cheerleading squad with their own practice venues and what have you.

  5. AnotherAnonymouse says

    I’d like to see them try this with the football players. In fact, please try this with the football players. They’ve got far too much money.

  6. kyoseki says

    Given the amount of money people will pay to watch them, as well as the amount of advertising revenue they generate, I’ve never understood the argument that professional athletes get paid far too much.

    If they don’t get the money, who does? The owners? The NFL themselves? At least the players themselves are actually doing the work and we are, after all, talking about an entire country’s worth of football players competing for what? Roughly 1500 jobs nationwide? (32 teams with rosters of ~50 players each).

    The cheerleaders and other support staff should, no doubt, be paid more, but I’m having a hard time believing that their collective salaries would make any kind of significant dent in the player’s pay.

  7. smrnda says

    I find it interesting that the NBA paid cheerleaders better. Is football a higher prestige sport to cheer, where cheering for the team gets recast into a privilege someone might *pay to do* rather than a support job that ought to pay money?

  8. MadHatter says

    @1 Marcus Ranum

    I don’t know if this is true anymore, but when I was in HS years ago a number of boys were encouraged to join the cheer squad. They were told that because boys so rarely do it, they had a good chance of getting scholarships from it. The girls supposedly did not have much chance.

    I’m really surprised the NFL does this to it’s cheerleaders. I guess I’d always assumed they were well compensated since they were part of the team image.

  9. Mano Singham says


    I think that is the case. Football cheerleaders have much higher visibility than basketball ones.

  10. Greg says

    Schools in the Big 6 conferences (AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC-12 and the SEC) do have scholarships for their cheerleaders. They also have scripted practices for dancing, gymnastics, and weightlifting and salaried, full-time head coaches, and sometimes an assistant coach. The women have weekly weigh-ins.

    Schools in other conferences may or may not have scholarships or coaches.

    Cheerleaders for NFL and NBA teams usually only cheer and dance. I don’t recall seeing gymnastics/tumbling, but I usually watch the game, not the cheerleaders.

    I cheered at a Division 1-AA (FCS, Football Championship Series) school years ago. We got uniforms and warm weather gear from the school, along with transportation, lodging, and per diem for away games.

  11. Mano Singham says


    Thanks for the link. I had no idea that cheerleading was so dangerous and the authorities so casual about safety issues. Scary.

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