by Kathia Woods
The NFL in the last couple of years has been exposed for their lack of understanding when it comes to off player activities such as domestic abuse and the political protest by Kaepernick. Quietly amongst all those missteps, a group of women have fought to be paid for the work they do as Professional Cheerleaders.
The NFL is a multibillion-dollar corporation, and Cheerleaders up until recently worked for free. These women are required to rehearse endless hours unpaid and procure hair and makeup artist for photoshoots and appearances.
The Staff that oversees the cheerleaders receives a Salary, but some of the cheerleaders were earning less than minimum wage for a job that required full-time commitment but was only supposed to be part-time. Make it make sense.
Director Yu Gu examines these scenarios in A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem. The movie follows two former cheerleaders. Lacy Thibodeaux-Fields a former Raiders cheerleader and Maria Pinzone a former Bills cheerleader. The NFL team’s big argument is that the ladies are independent contractors however, they seem to have forgotten that they use the lady’s imaginings on calendars, website, and book appearances. All under the campaign of being one big family. In this scenario, all other family members get paid except the women in the swimsuit calendar. Thibodeau-Fields and Pinzone don't agree, hence filling their respective lawsuits. This film shows that while the NFL can paint the field pink for Breast Cancer awareness month, hire more women in the home office and still disrespect them at the same damn time. Also, ask yourself why these teams are Nickel and diming these women when they make millions of dollars every year?
There is so much to tackle in this movie honestly Ms. Gu only scratched the surface of this nightmare. Missing are points such as the cheerleaders aren’t an integral part of the game but for some NFL franchises, they are at times the only reason fans attend games. Take for instance the Jacksonville Jaguars they installed a hot tub for their fans because the team was so bad. Also in states like Texas where cheerleading is life, The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are ranked higher than any woman holding office just because she can shake her booty. I wanted Yu Gu to dive more into that football culture. The part that looks at women simply as eye candy.
I am curious as to why Ms. Gu didn’t try to film the NFL owners, GM’s and asked them why their paying the cheerleaders less than minimum wage. Just getting them on camera running in the opposite direction or repeating no comment would have brought the hypocrisy home. We also needed to examine why the women in that nasty group chat are comfortable working for free. What was it about this lawsuit that made them so defensive? These were all the questions running through my mind viewing this film. I needed more context in this culture. I at times felt that it would have been more compelling as a five-part sports documentary on HBO. It’s not that this movie is bad however there is so much wrong to discuss that an hour and half simply didn’t seem enough.
The fight for justice is lonely and not always rewarding. Both women endure some hardships while fighting this battle. Their tenacity is to be admired and supported, not judged. As I typed, this other women are speaking up, and some are beginning to get paid not just for games, but appearances and practice. I encourage you to watch this film, especially if you have a daughter. It’s essential that we help this younger generation make informed decisions when it comes to the entertainment industry. Don't let the title of this documentary fool you this isn't just a film about the disparity of pay for NFL cheerleaders it's a labor issue. It's about corporations that refuse to pay their workers. It may seem exciting joining the wonderful world of professional sports/dance but, sacrificing one's dignity is never acceptable. Also, if you do a job, you should get paid.