5 Ways Professional Sports Reinforce Sexism


NFL Cheerleaders

Oakland Raiders Cheerleaders
In 2014, members of the Oakland Raiders Raiderettes settled a class-action lawsuit against the team owners for $1.25 million for back pay. Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Today's NFL would hardly seem like, well the NFL, without its cheerleaders. Even as far back as 1977, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders have been questioned as sexist. But in early 2014, cheerleaders from five NFL teams took their owners to task and sued because of sub-par working conditions. They claimed their pay was well below minimum wage, even as players were making millions.

Not only that, but women were subjected to demeaning "jiggle tests" as visual assessments of their fitness, and twice-weekly weigh-ins were grounds for dismissal. The Buffalo Bills' Jills described a charity event — for which they weren't paid — where they were required to wear bikinis, go into a dunking booth and then were auctioned off to sit on the laps of wealthy golfers for the remainder of the day. The first lawsuit, against the Oakland Raiders, was settled for $1.25 million, even though the Department of Labor sided with the team.

Minor improvements to working conditions were made after the 2014 round of lawsuits, but the Raiderettes initiated another lawsuit over pay in 2017. According to Mic, a Raiders cheerleader was paid about $1,250 for the season, though team mascots are paid between $25,000 and $60,000.