On the threshold of Super Bowl weekend, National Football League cheerleaders have accused 26 of the NFL’s 32 teams of conspiring to suppress wages in an antitrust class action filed this week in San Francisco.
A former San Francisco 49er cheerleader, identified only as Jane Doe, claims the NFL made deals that agreed to underpay “female athletes” by forcing them to work off the clock and prohibiting them from seeking work in other sports.
The complaint alleges the team owners and top executives agreed not to recruit cheerleaders from each other’s teams, to pay a flat wage for each game but not to pay for rehearsal time, bar them from discussing their earnings with each other in an alleged effort to suppress wages.
The complaint points to the skyrocketing revenues for the NFL from TV and radio contracts, citing $13.3 billion in 2016, with predictions it will reach a goal of $25 billion by 2027. That is up from $8.5 billion from 2010. The lawsuit also points out that NFL players in 2016 averaged $1.3 million for the 1,800 athletes.
Even practice squad players, who do not appear in games, earn at least $117,300 per season. Even team mascots are paid more than cheerleaders, according to the complaint. Oakland Raiders, example, paid the cheerleaders flat fees of $125 per game. In 2014, Oakland settled a lawsuit against the team for $1.25 million.
And the Bengals paid cheerleaders $90 per game, the suit states. The Bengals settled a similar lawsuit in 2015 for $250,000. And lastly, the New York Jets settled cheerleader claims in 2016 for $324,000. The suit also alleges many teams actually charge the women a $25 fee to audition for the job, according to the suit.
Doe was described as a cheerleader for the 49ers from May 2013 to February 2014.
The lawsuit claims violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Cartwright Act as a conspiracy to restrain trade, reduce competition and suppress earnings for the women.
Case: Doe v. NFL, No. 17-cv-496