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The Fight for the Pom-Poms

The constant movement of maroon and gold in the stands, the blended smell of hotdogs and popcorn that seeped through the field’s gates, and the sporadic camera flashes that made the stadium sparkle. You can’t deny that game day at Boston College is one of the best events to be a part of.

Now imagine the game with no pom-poms. Seriously! What would game day be like without the entertainment? No cheers? No dances? Well, the NFL might have to consider such a phenomenon as a new lawsuit filed against the Oakland Raiders comes to light.

Oakland Raiders’ cheerleader, Lacy T., is stepping up to say that working conditions for professional cheerleaders are not only unfair, they are illegal. After joining the squad, Lacy was handed the team’s “Bible” which outlined how to truly be a Raiderette. The guide includes “everything from folding a dinner napkin correctly to spurning advances of a married Raiders player” (Hess) and most significantly, the “specific instructions for maintaining a head-to-toe Raiderettes look.” For most girls in cheerleading and dancing, there is a general understanding that they use their bodies as their instruments. Though they would like to believe they are not being objectified, their talent is sometimes miniscule in the eyes of (gross) onlookers. As such, the Raiderettes know that, in order to keep the crowd interested, body image is a prime focus of theirs. Lacy was given a photo of Rachel McAdams as a model for how her own hair should look. She even had to go to a “squad-approved salon” to upkeep the style! If you’re not catching the gist, the requirements for maintaining a spot on the team were just a little out of hand.

In addition to keeping up the exact shade of Rachel McAdams’ brunette ‘do, as part of the Raiderettes, Lacy was obliged to always have French-manicured nails, tans (faux or not), false lashes, and a weight that was no more than four pounds above her designated baseline (of 103 pounds). Though some may argue that such obligations come along with the job, professionals are to be reimbursed for such business expenses; and such uncovered fees are deemed illegal.

But the illegal activities only began there. After all the practices, public appearances, photo shoots, and games, the Raiderettes’ paychecks were only $1,250—a number far below minimum wage for all the hours put in. That amounts to $125 per home game which totals to less than $5 per hour for all the work put in alongside the games. Furthermore, the girls were threatened with fines “for everything from forgetting pompoms to gaining weight”.

Though many would assume that all cheerleaders are prepared to fight for fair working conditions, many are actually against the Lacy T. v Oakland Raiders suit. Former Raiderette, Chandra Roberts, worries that Lacy’s “bad experience” may lead to an entire shutdown of the NFL cheering industry. Roberts says that in the eyes of male NFL leaders “cheerleaders are expendable”. In fact, her qualms validate a real concern: “cheerleaders’ position in the NFL is too tenuous to survive a suit”.

A game without cheerleading would be a game without spirit. Undeniably, cheerleading is the necessary entertainment accompaniment to sporting events—and if these girls are playing such an important role, they should at least be treated under legal constraints.


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