They are a cornerstone of every good football franchise, and yet they don't get treated as such. NFL cheerleaders are part of the very fabric of attending a football game or even watching it on television, yet many of them have to work at least one other job in order to survive. Now, some cheerleaders are fighting back.
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The cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills have been given the go ahead to file a class action lawsuit against the NFL team, in which they are expected to demand better wages.
The ruling comes from a New York state judge who now allows "all Buffalo Bills cheerleaders and ambassadors since April 2008" to come together to file suit. This all stems from five former cheerleaders who each individually brought suits against the team.
According to Headlines & Global News, the cheerleaders' lawyer, Christopher Marlborough said that he is pleased with what happened and is ready to start “fighting for the rights" of all Bills cheerleaders who are making claims.
While this is just one team, it opens the door for cheerleaders from other NFL teams to do the same thing. The NFL treats cheerleaders like independent contractors, not employees. It is because of this that they aren't given benefits, certain wages, or other workplace rights.
The suit claims that the cheerleaders were paid well belong minimum wage and were forced, by the team, to attend events for free. Raiders cheerleaders claimed in 2014 that they were paid less than $5 an hour and settled for $1.25 million. The Buccaneers settled against a similar claim. They also said that some of the attendees of these sponsored events were extremely rude and made them feel uncomfortable. Another claim is that the Bills controlled what they looked like, what they wore, how they acted, and even what they could listen to.
In a statement, the Bills said they intend to appeal the ruling and continue to fight the allegations.
"It remains our position that this case is being prosecuted by a very small number of former cheerleaders whose allegations do not accurately reflect the sentiment of all cheerleaders," the team said.
The Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets have also been sued.
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Last July, the governor of California, Jerry Brown signed a law stating that cheerleaders in California had to be paid at least minimum wage and be classified as employees.