The scantily clad members of the fair sex who earn their daily bread as cheerleaders for one or another of the 36 teams that comprise the National Football League are currently locked in a battle for fairer treatment by the league. They are currently classified as independent contractors but are seeking wage guarantees and other protections that are enjoyed by employees of the teams.
The New York Times explains:
In just the last two years, professional cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals have filed wage theft lawsuits against their respective teams, alleging labor violations including misclassification, meaning that some cheerleaders were treated as independent contractors, not as employees, and therefore didn’t receive the wages or benefits they deserved. (So far, the Raiders and Buccaneers have settled lawsuits by agreeing to pay more than $2 million in back wages.)
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, you’ll probably be instrigued by the argument on behalf of the cheerleaders put forward by New York State Senator Diane Savino. Positing that the women are talented and “deserve to be treated … with dignity and respect,” Savino went on to give what one assumes to be her definition of “dignity and respect.” These women, she said, should be able to profit from their “God-given assets.”
Via the Observer:
A day after the kickoff of football season, … Savino took to the airwaves to promote new legislation — which would make cheerleaders, who are currently often classed as independent contractors, official employees of the teams they perform for.
Appearing on the Capitol Pressroom radio show, the Staten Island legislator argued that cheerleaders receive less than minimum wage or are not paid at all, despite the time and physical effort they devote to their routines. Since the young women sign contracts dictated by the teams they are associated with, and are usually forbidden to work with another organization, Ms. Savino asserted they are not independent contractors but employees — and the teams must treat them as such by meeting wage and labor laws and paying overtime, and allowing the ladies to organize.
“These women are not just pretty. They’re very talented acrobats, dancers, gymnasts and they are as much athletes in many respects as the players on the field. They deserve to be treated, you know, with dignity and respect. And that’s all we’re asking for,” said Ms. Savino. “They bring untold financial value to the team much in the same way the players do.”
Ms. Savino pointed out the bill would apply to all cheerleaders for all professional sports teams in New York, and brushed off a questions about whether cheerleaders opened themselves up to exploitation by taking a job that had them show off their bodies,
“Look, no one would watch the cheerleaders if they were dressed in a sackcloth, it’s obvious,” she said. “You know, there’s a reason why people are watching them. Women, we’re objectified in so many ways, and when we decide that we want to somehow utilize our God-given assets, then we’re criticized for that too.”
Here is a photo of women who lead cheers for the team once known as the Washington Redskins. (Actually, come to think of it, the team is still known as the Washington Redskins.)
Here is another of a cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who is even more richly endowed with “God-given assets”:
I for one am very impressed with the God-given assets on display. I just have problems seeing how their flaunting of these assets can be the basis of a pro-feminist argument.
Cross-posted at the Mental Recession