By Mercedes Pineda
Just before the Big Game, a former cheerleader for the San Francisco 49ers “Gold Rush Girls” filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL, claiming the league conspired to keep the female athletes’ pay below market value. Seeking up to $300 million in damages, the suit claims cheerleaders earn a paltry flat wage per game (250% to 650% less than what NFL mascots earn) while going uncompensated for hours of rehearsal time and community outreach events. Adding insult to injury, the cheerleaders are prohibited from working for any other professional cheerleading team, even outside of the NFL, and are forbidden from discussing their wages. The complaint accuses the league, its teams, owners, high-ranking management officials, and heads of the cheerleading squads of plotting in various meetings to underpay the female athletes. It also alleges that the conspiracy was enforced through fear and intimidation, with cheerleaders threatened that they could easily be replaced for failing to perform in any way. While certainly not the first lawsuit filed by NFL cheerleaders, it is the first to claim the NFL is a joint employer and to allege antitrust violations. Food for thought coming off the League’s biggest event of the year.