Oakland Raiders cheerleaders finally receive minimum wage settlement

This legal battle lasted for three years.

Oakland Raiders cheerleaders perform before an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Oakland Raiders cheerleaders perform before an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

This week, Oakland Raiders cheerleaders finally received payouts from a $1.25 million legal settlement, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The sum will go to about 90 Raiderettes. Those who cheered between 2010 and 2012 will receive $6,000 per season, and those who cheered in 2013 will receive $2,500.

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The settlement was reportedly reached in the fall of 2014, but it took two and a half years for the legal battle to conclude and the settlement to reach the hands of the cheerleaders. And while $1.25 million might sound like a big victory, when you break it down, these women are getting the bare minimum — literally.

“Our clients have now been paid the equivalent of minimum wage for all of the hours they worked and have been reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses,” attorney Sharon Vinick said in a statement to the Chronicle from Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP, the attorneys for the class members. “It is important to note that paying these women minimum wage doesn’t represent the value that these hard-working women bring to the Game Day Experience.”

This lawsuit was originally filed in January of 2014 by Lacy T., whose full identity has not been revealed, and another plaintiff.

She joined the Raiders in her late 20s, after dancing for the Golden State Warriors and taking time off to have a baby. With the NBA’s Warriors, she was paid $10 an hour for all practices, games, and appearances, and reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses. So she was surprised when she found out she’d only be paid $125 per game with the Raiders, and that her only paycheck would come in the form of a lump sum at the end of the season. There was no pay at all for practices or promotional appearances, expenses were not reimbursed, and fines for infractions such as weight gain or uniform violations were subtracted from the lump sum payment.

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Why NFL cheerleading is changing for the better.For years, NFL cheerleaders have been mistreated but that’s all changing thanks to Lacy, a Raiderette who knew that she…www.sportsonearth.comI spoke with Lacy T. a few years ago for Sports on Earth. In that interview, she explained that she feels like the emotions of the cheerleaders — who are typically much younger than she was — are manipulated by the system, which is why it took so long for their mistreatment to come to light.

Lacy had conversations with her teammates and knew that they felt the same way that she did. However, most of them stayed silent because they wanted to be able to come back and cheer the following season.

“Throughout the year we’re told, ‘You’re lucky to be here. If you have a complaint just let us know, we’ll find someone to replace you,’ I think a lot of girls have that fear.

“I think that also, a lot of girls maybe haven’t had enough work experience to understand how they should be treated in the workplace,” she said.

While minimum wage is hopefully only the beginning for cheerleader’s rights, this settlement is a powerful step forward. Lacy T.’s initial lawsuit spurred massive change for the treatment of cheerleaders in the NFL.

Similar lawsuits were filed against the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New York Jets.

Earlier this year, ABC News reported that a group of former cheerleaders filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that the league and its 26 teams who have cheerleaders “actively conspired to underpay them and keep them from negotiating better salaries.”

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“This class action challenges a conspiracy among defendants to fix and suppress the compensation of their employees, female athletes colloquially known as ‘cheerleaders,’” the lawsuit states. “Without knowledge or consent of employees, defendant NFL Member Teams’ owners and senior executives entered into an agreement or series of agreements to eliminate competition among them for skilled labor employed as ‘cheerleaders.’”

Lacy T. is proud that her lawsuit has inspired others to fight for fair compensation, and she’s especially happy the Raiders have changed their contract for good.

“I never dreamed that my decision to find a lawyer and file a lawsuit would lead to the kind of sweeping changes we have seen for the women of the NFL,” she said, via a statement from her lawyers. “It’s pretty breathtaking. But as a mom, it makes me proud to know I’ve stood up for myself, other women, and my daughters.”