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As the NFL rakes in about $10 billion in revenue per year and the winners of Super Bowl Sunday will take home around $92,000 each — NFL cheerleaders are sometimes paid less than minimum wage for their performances.
The Oakland Raiders Cheerleaders performs during an NFL Football game in December. NFL cheerleaders are sometimes paid less than minimum wage for their performances. Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The U.S. Department of Labor said Wednesday it had launched an investigation into the treatment of the Oakland Raiders’ cheerleaders, known as the “Raiderettes.”
The investigation was prompted by a first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed last month by a Raiderette who alleged wage theft and unfair employment practices.
According to the suit, the Raiderettes earn around $1,250 per season, or about $5 per hour. Minimum wage in California is $8.00 per hour.
The plaintiff claims the team withholds pay until the end of the season, does not cover expenses like travel and fines the cheerleaders for violations like bringing the wrong pom-pons to practice.
The Raiders’ top-paid player Darren McFadden earns close to $6 million a year, according to Fox Sports.
The Raiders are not the only team in the league with low-paid cheerleaders. San Diego Chargers cheerleaders are paid $75 per game, for example. Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders earn around $150 per game, and Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are paid around $100 per game, according to the Atlantic.
Some cheerleaders employed by NFL teams say the job is not about the money and is more of a hobby. They add the exposure of being an NFL cheerleader can lead to better, more lucrative positions down the line.
“I always say, ‘Cheerleading doesn’t pay the bills, but it pays the soul,’” Seahawks cheerleader Kristal-Lynn told Al Jazeera.
“I love it. I love it because I love football — the sound of the players colliding and seeing them score right in front of me,” she said.
Megan Thompson shoots, produces and reports on-camera for PBS NewsHour Weekend. Her report "Costly Generics" earned an Emmy nomination and won Gracie and National Headliner Awards. She was also recently awarded a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship to report on the issue of mental health. Previously, Thompson worked for the PBS shows and series Need to Know, Treasures of New York, WorldFocus and NOW on PBS. Prior to her career in journalism she worked in research and communications on Capitol Hill. She originally hails from the great state of Minnesota and holds a BA from Wellesley College and a MA in Journalism from New York University.
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