NFL cheerleaders have been in the news lately, and not for the right reasons. In April, the New York Times published a story in which cheerleaders from around the NFL told how sexual harassment, groping, and an overall lack of respect were almost a part of their job description. They were expected to escort high-paying season ticketholders and donors to functions. If they refused, they would be fired.
In another instance, Washington Redskins cheerleaders detailed how in 2013 they were forced to take topless photos for a calendar shoot — even when none of those photos would be used in the calendar — while a select few men watched. Locally, a Miami Dolphins cheerleader alleges she was scolded for posting a picture of a baptism on social media and constantly interrogated about why she often spoke out about remaining a virgin until she was married. There have also been numerous stories recently of how cheerleaders are required to remain a certain weight or be fired.
Does any of this sound like something that should be happening in 2018? In an era grappling with #MeToo, it's absurd what NFL cheerleaders apparently must endure for a low-paying job. The whole setup is so ridiculous that it's time to do away with NFL cheerleaders. Here's why.
1. NFL cheerleaders are paid next to nothing. The NFL is a multibillion-dollar business that continues to find new ways to increase revenue while providing a product that's increasingly watered-down and inferior to what consumers are used to. Even with this formula, the league has reportedly found a way to pay cheerleaders embarrassingly little. Reports show that most NFL cheerleaders make as little as $1,250 a season, which comes out to well below minimum wage when you factor in all the hours of practice and time at mandatory events cheerleaders invest.
The league considers it such an honor to be an NFL cheerleader that money is secondary. The whole setup has a very sleazy NCAA-athlete feel to it. Cheerleaders should be fairly compensated for their work as much as or more than a worker at McDonald's. It's 2018, and women deserve to be treated fairly in the workplace, even if that workplace is the most barbaric, male-dominated workplace in America.
2. Almost every fan at Hard Rock Stadium would tell you they wouldn't miss the cheerleaders. If 70,000 people attend a Dolphins game, maybe 10,000 can even see what the cheerleaders are up to. Most fans aren't paying attention. When was the last time you remember an NFL cheerleader leading a cheer? Ever? Cheerleaders are an ant on the ground in a massive NFL stadium. In 2018, their entire purpose is to stand around and smile for TV cameras coming out of a timeout.
Nobody would miss Dolphins cheerleaders if they weren't around at halftime or between commercial breaks. Fans can't see what the cheerleaders are doing most of the time, and during timeouts, viewers are doing anything but squinting down at the field to try to make out a cheer routine.
3. NFL cheerleaders are there only for the worst NFL fans. Ask yourself this: For whom are NFL cheerleaders? If they were to disappear tomorrow, would anyone miss them? Are they a vital part of the product the NFL is trying to sell? For decades, the league has employed cheerleaders for one reason and one reason only: drunk men. The 25-to-54-year-old drunk male is the NFL's wheelhouse.
In light of the drip-drip of horrific stories cheerleaders revealed over the past year, it's time to think about people other than the guy who drinks seven beers in the parking lot before the Dolphins lose to the Bills 17-12.
4. The NFL has enough problems already. From boycotting games over the unaddressed legacy of brain damage in players to tuning out over the league's continued blackballing of Colin Kaepernick or over anger at other players kneeling during the National Anthem, the NFL already has enough threats from viewers to tune out games. Landing squarely in the crosshairs of the #MeToo movement is the last thing the league needs. If it weren't already crystal clear that men in powerful positions routinely abuse that power, 2018 has made that fact impossible to ignore. And apparently, many of those men are also Washington Redskins fans who think spending a lot of money on tickets and VIP packages gives them the right to creepily "chaperone" cheerleaders or spy on them during nude photo shoots.
The NFL needs to get out of the sex business. Once you factor in what cheerleaders bring to the league, keeping them in the game simply doesn't make business sense in 2018. If the Dolphins need pretty women to sign autographs to persuade anyone to buy tickets, the team has much bigger problems to address.
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5. There are other ways for current cheerleaders to work for the Dolphins. Sex sells, so it's not a crazy idea that the Dolphins would want beautiful women representing their brand. The issue here is that the NFL cheerleader is no longer a job that should exist, not that beautiful women shouldn't be able to represent a brand such as the Fins.
Many NFL cheerleaders say they endure the low pay and abuse for the resumé point and out of hopes the job can be a jumping-off point for future plans. The Dolphins and every other NFL team could afford to pay these women a fair wage to get out and do many of the things they already do for the teams — just not in a cheerleading outfit.
Other sports have "energy teams," or groups that appear at events to give publicity to their brands and to interact with fans. Those sports do just fine while paying fair wages and not treating their employees like sex objects. The NFL could do the same.