Cheerleaders deserve fair pay
Lisa Murray SFGate.com
February 12, 2014
For more than 40 years, professional cheerleaders have been poorly compensated for their countless hours of hard work for multimillion-dollar sports franchises in a billion-dollar industry. This should embarrass professional sports.
After hoping to change this problem from the inside, I quickly realized that was never going to happen.
The Baltimore Colts were the first team to have cheerleaders in the National Football League, in 1954. In 1979, Jerry Buss commissioned the Laker Girls after he purchased the basketball team from Jack Kent Cooke. Soon afterward, dance teams became more popular across the United States. Sadly, women have allowed these organizations to shortchange them for years, and we only have ourselves to blame. The bottom line is that it is illegal for these teams to be paying women below minimum wage. Not all teams do this, but far too many do. That is an issue in itself, but the bigger concern goes much deeper than that.
Anyone who has spoken in support of these multimillion-dollar organizations shortchanging the dancers is part of the problem. Women have valued their notoriety as cheerleaders more than their rights in the workplace, especially in a male-driven industry. They continue to set all women back, after so many have fought to create equality and fair pay.
In order to raise awareness on the issue and work toward receiving reasonable pay for all National Basketball Association and NFL professional cheerleaders, we need to stand up and fight for our rights as a united front.
This is not a starting point, but an end goal. Women are selected for a professional dance team because of their skill set, potential or experience. They are good enough to make a team – just like any other athlete being signed to a professional sports team. Yet we have no one advocating for us, so we have been taken advantage of. Wouldn’t it make sense to let the players association decide what fair and just pay for cheerleaders is for each market?
Prior to making an NBA dance team, I had not had professional experience. I played basketball in high school and was fortunate enough to be trained by former college and NBA players who are family friends. I heard about an audition on the radio, and the next thing I knew, I was standing in a gym with 250 other woman fighting for a spot on the Golden State Warriors Dance Team. It seemed like an amazing opportunity because two of my passions are dance and basketball.
Not knowing much about this profession, I looked down and thought to myself, “Do I really need to wear a sparkly outfit to get this job?”
Shortly after making the team, I realized there was much more to this profession than fake eyelashes and pompons. NBA dancers practice at least 12 hours a week, work out independently to stay in shape and are expected to learn routines on their own time (which takes about two to four hours each week). They have 41 home games, each of which are seven-hour workdays, and in addition a set number of personal appearances per season.
NFL cheerleaders have 10 home games, which are nine-to-10-hour workdays, practice for up to nine hours a week, and have a set number of appearances for close to nine months straight. All this is done while being paid lower than minimum wage (or in some cases $10 an hour), while holding another full-time job or attending university.
In order to fix a problem, you have to become aware of it. Then it is our job to educate others in order to produce change. This is so women in the workplace can soar and stop being held back by stereotypes.
The Oakland Raiders didn’t give their fans much to cheer about during the football season, and now one of the team’s cheerleaders says they’re being shortchanged as well.
Lacy T. accused the Raiders in a lawsuit Wednesday of failing to pay the Raiderettes minimum wages for the work they do, both on the sidelines and in the community for charity. The team also sticks them with travel costs and levies “fines” that eat into their meager salary, she said.
She filed her lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court as a proposed class action on behalf of 40 current Raiderettes and other members of the squad over the past four years. And she said she hopes other NFL cheerleaders will join the fray.
“I love being a Raiderette, but someone has to stand up for all of the women of the NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams,” Lacy T. said in a statement released by her lawyer. “I hope cheerleaders across the NFL will step forward to join me in demanding respect and fair compensation.”
The suit identifies her as Lacy T. in accord with a team policy that withholds the Raiderettes’ last names for security reasons.
The Raiderettes’ contract calls for $125 per home game, or $1,250 per season, she said. That amounts to less than $5 an hour, counting hours of unpaid work in rehearsals, performances at 10 charity events and participation in the team’s annual swimsuit photo-shoot, the suit said.
Additionally, the suit said, the Raiders withhold the cheerleaders’ pay until the end of the season, in violation of a state law requiring pay at least twice a month.
“I’ve been dancing for 16 years, and I was paid more for dancing in college than I am as a pro cheerleader,” Lacy T. said in an interview. “I’m a stay-at-home mom, and every dollar out of my pocket is noticed.”
The 27-year-old Alameda resident, hired by the Raiders before the 2013 season, said she was treated much better in the previous two years as a member of the Golden State Warriors’ dance team, the Warrior Girls. They were paid $10 to $14 an hour, depending on experience, with no unpaid work or expenses, she said.
Lacy T. said the other Raiderettes were unaware of her lawsuit until Wednesday, but she’s talked with many of them and “we all have the exact same complaints.”
Her attorney, Sharon Vinick, said she has been told that other NFL teams have similar wage practices for their cheerleaders, though she has not seen the contracts. She said 26 of the 32 NFL teams have cheerleading squads.
In contrast, Vinick said, the teams treat their male mascots as paid employees with benefits, which the Raiderettes don’t receive.
Vinick said the Raiders apparently got wind of the suit and tried to head it off by paying the cheerleaders considerably more than their 2013-14 contract salaries last week – in Lacy T.’s case, $2,780 for 332.5 regular work hours and 10 hours of overtime. That still was less than the promised contractual rate of $125 for an eight-hour shift in a home game, the suit said.
Raiders officials said they would not comment on the suit.
The suit said Raiderettes are required to take part, without pay, in two to three rehearsals per week, the 10 charity events, a team rally, Fan Day and the swimsuit calendar photo-shoot. They must also pay the costs of traveling to those events, it said.
In addition, the suit said, the cheerleaders must buy accessories such as tights, false eyelashes and a yoga mat, and pay for a team-selected hairstylist, whose appointments cost several hundred dollars. Lacy T. claims in her suit to have spent about $650 on those items this past season.
The team fines Raiderettes $10 or more for such offenses as failing to bring the right pom-poms or a yoga mat to practice, the suit said. It said a cheerleader who gains 5 pounds from her weight at the start of the season, or who appears “too soft” to the squad’s director, is benched for the next home game, has to stay in the locker room, and forfeits the $125 wage she would have made for participating, though she still must take part in pregame and halftime activities.
The suit seeks compensation for minimum wages, overtime, expenses and meal and rest breaks that state law requires after five hours of work.
The sportscaster, actress, model, NBA scout, wounded warrior advocate, animal rights advocate, entrepreneur, and former San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Golden State Warriors cheerleader keeps a whirlwind schedule.
“I’ve always been one of those people that likes to have a ton of irons in the fire,” Laflin said recently at the home of her parents, Ross and Bunnie Laflin, in Spanish Springs. “You only live once, right, so try to do as much as you can.”
She has fit quite a lot into her 37 years, much of it in support of two passions in her life — supporting the military and animal welfare.
“Coming from a military family, my love for the military started at a very young age,” Laflin said. “Both my grandfathers served in World War II. My grandfather on my mom’s side was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. He was in the Baatan Death March, a POW. My dad’s dad was in the Army Air Corps. I have an uncle who was a career Marine. My dad was a career law enforcement officer.”
Throughout her time as a cheerleader for the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, she participated USO tours, to entertain the troops overseas — assignments that took her to Bosnia, Germany, Korea, Japan and points around the world. She continued to go after her cheerleading days, often emceeing USO events, including nine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.
She spent last Christmas in Kuwait and Iraq with the troops.
Her love of animals started in childhood as well. When she had a birthday party, she would ask for donations to animal shelters instead of presents. She rode horses and competed in barrel racing.
She was always rescuing animals and bringing them home — a practice she continued today. Her parents’ ranch home, overlooking the Spanish Springs Valley, is home to eight dogs, two cats, four goats and three chickens — all rescued by Bonnie-Jill.
In 2010, she was able to combine both her passions, starting a charitable organization called Hounds and Heroes. It is a national nonprofit dedicated to lift the spirits and morale of active, wounded, and veteran military troops, and to increase awareness about the cruelty to animals.
Using her connections with the Cowboys and 49ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, where she worked for five years as the only female scout in the NBA, Laflin arranges outings for wounded troops to NFL and NBA games.
She also visits wounded troops in hospitals and sends care packages overseas.
At the same time, Laflin includes her dedication to rescuing animals, in this case dogs.
“We’re rescuing dogs from the shelters, training them and then pairing them up with a service member who needs them, whether it’s as a therapy or a service dog,” she said. “There are different needs. Some are for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), some are because they’re an amputee. There are different things. The way we look at it is we’re saving two lives.”
The charity is Laflin’s unpaid part-time job. She also works full time as a sports broadcaster and also does some acting when time allows. (She appeared in the TV series “Baywatch” and “Ally McBeal” in music videos and, just recently, was on an episode of the Comedy Central show “Key and Peel,” portraying a news anchor.)
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in broadcast journalism, (working as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader at the time), she worked for ESPN as a correspondent on the morning program “Cold Pizza.” She also had a show called “Speed World” covering motor sports.
She’s now an independent broadcaster in Los Angeles, and also produces a sports show in China, traveling there ever two to three months. She’s big on social media in the United States with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. She’s a virtual rock star in China, which has its own social media, with millions of followers.
She also has her own line of clothing, and other ventures, including a charitable calendar for her fans to raise money for her charities.
“If I could just do charity work, it’s all I would do,” she said. “That’s probably what really fulfills me the most is giving back. I have a lot of great support from the teams that I’ve worked with from the Lakers to the Niners to the Cowboys. Anytime I reach out and say, hey, I need to bring five wounded warriors to a game, they say, ‘Bonnie-Jill, whatever you need.'”
Her ultimate career goal: to be owner of the San Francisco Giants, her favorite team.
In the meantime, Laflin enjoys jumping off the fast track whenever possible and staying with her parents.
“For me to be able to come to my parents’ house and just relax, I just love it,” she said. “My parents have all kinds of animals, all rescues, so it’s nice to decompress. Living in L.A., it’s very fast-paced, very high-strung and stressful. It’s good to get away from the hustle and bustle.”
Thanks to Reader Andrew for sending us a couple of photos: 49ers Gold Rush at Monday night’s game and from earlier in the month the Golden State Warrior Girls at their calendar release party. More photos at the links below.
Tickets Available For $35 To Get The First Look At the 2014 Calendar And Meet All 20 Dancers From The Warrior Girls
The Warrior Girls, the official dance team of the Golden State Warriors, will host the first-ever Warrior Girls calendar release party for the team’s 2014 Warrior Girls calendar on Monday, December 2 at EPIC Roasthouse (369 The Embarcadero) in San Francisco from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The calendar was shot over two days at various locations in South Lake Tahoe. The calendar release party is a ticketed event with tickets available for advanced purchase at warriors.com for $35. The ticket includes entrance into the exclusive cocktail mixer with all 20 members of the Warrior Girls dance team, the first look and individual copy of the 2014 Warrior Girls calendar, personalized signings with all members of the dance team, and hors d’oeuvres. Fans will also have the opportunity to win signed player items, tickets to an upcoming Warriors home game, a Stephen Curry 3-Point Record commemorative bobblehead, and more.
Tickets are limited and required to enter the event. Fans are encouraged to buy tickets online prior to the event.
Following the release party, the 2014 Warrior Girls calendar will be available at the Warriors Team Store at Oracle Arena and online at warriorsteamstore.com. The 2014 Warrior Girls calendar was shot in South Lake Tahoe, CA earlier this year and features all 20 Warrior Girls.
So I was perusing the news the other day, and came across as story about a local dance studio in Northern California, whose students will we performing halftime at a local university. The studio is Dance Academy USA,which is under the artistic direction of one Jane Carter.
Jane Carter…Jane Carter…Jane Carter…I know I know something about Jane Carter. But what is it?
DUDE! That’s Jessie’s mom!
And then it all came back to me. All about Jessie’s mom, and everything Jessie told me a few months ago, and how this is THE GREATEST mother/daughter story to hit Ultimate Cheerleaders EVER. Y’all know how I am always on the hunt for twins/sisters/mother-daughter combos for our “relatives” page. My only excuse for forgetting about this is I am easily distracted and somebody must’ve waved a shiny object in front of my face.
First let’s start with Jessie. Such a sweet girl, that Jessie. Nice in a completely non-annoying way. She looks all intimidating in this photo. Soooo not her personality.
Jessie danced for the Los Angeles Clippers for two seasons (2008-2010).
I think she was all of 18 when she made the team.
Then she was with the Charger Grls for a season (2010-11).
After a season off to focus on school, Jessie got itch to get out there again. She had a little over a year before graduating from college, and decided she wanted to experience dance team at the college level. So she auditioned for, and was selected to the world famous Song Girls from the University of Southern California. That’s something new. A college dance team with an NFL/NBA alum in the ranks.
She was on that team last year (2012-13). There’s no telling where she’ll turn up next, but I am convinced she’s not finished dancing. It’s in her blood.
Which brings me to Jessie’s mom, Jane. As I mentioned above, Jane is the Artistic Director of Dance Academy USA. In addition to Jessie, Jane, and her husband Jim have two other daughters; Jamie and Jodie. Jane, Jim, Jessie, Jamie, and Jodie. I’ve seen pictures of the five of them together, and they look like the photo that comes with the frame.
Jim, I am informed, is the only one who can’t dance. Not even a little.
I’m keeping my eye out for Jamie and Jodie.
But back to Jane. This was Jane back in the day:
Like her daughter, Jane, also danced for both the NBA and the NFL. However, it was not for the Clippers and the Chargers. Jane was a Northern California girl, so her experience centered around that area. She started off with the San Jose State Spectrum Dance team in 1983-84. (To this day, Spectrum alumni are consistently selected for the NFL, NBA, and AFL.) A year later, she became a Golden State Warrior Girl.
(Top right, y'all)
She performed with that team for two years before spending a year with the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush.
After that, she retired from her career as a pro sports entertainer and opened Dance Academy USA. A couple years later, little Jessie was born, and the rest is history.
These days Dance Academy USA keeps Jane plenty busy. It’s one of the largest. most successful studios in the region. They have 40 instructors, and over 1600 students. They teach hundreds of classes each week. Successful? You better believe it.
But back in the day, it was glam all the way. I have so many questions for Jane about what it was like back then, but if I sit down to figure them all out, this post will go on the shelf yet again. So for now, let’s enjoy the pics. Many thanks to Jessie for all the photos of her mommy
Sidebar: if you know of any sisters, cousins, moms and daughters, to add to the list. Let me know at sasha (at) procheerleaderblog.com
Two Danville women have made the cut to become Warrior Girls again.
Last year’s team Captain, Casey Grimes, a five-year veteran of the team, and two-year Warrior Girl Amira Mourad, are on the team again.
Two Livermore women also made the final list of those who’ll be cheering for the Golden State Warriors at the Oakland Colosseum for the 2013-14 season. Patrisha Yabes and Leah Medeiros, both two-year veterans, made the team.
Monte Vista grad Mourad has trained in several forms of dance and spent two years on the Phoenix Suns dance team. Last year, Mourad and six other dancers went to Wuhan, China to perform at a car show for one of the sponsors of the NBA.
Casey Grimes, the captain of the 2012-13 Warrior Girls, the cheer team for the Golden State Warriors, has made the cut and will be on the team again for the upcoming season.
Grimes, a 2008 graduate of Monte Vista High School, has been dancing since she was two years old. She was among was six Warrior Girls who went to Japan in 2010 to take part in the Final Four of the Japanese Professional Basketball League.
There, the young woman also put on dance clinics for local children and some adults as well as preforming at each of the four games.
Even though all four local women have been on the team, they all have to try out every year, according to Warriors Spokesman Massimo Degaudenzi.
While Grimes was captain for the 2012-13 season, Degaudenzi said it’s too soon to tell if she’ll be selected again.
Third year Warrior Girl Amira Mourad will be on the cheer team for the Golden State Warriors, again for the upcoming season.
“The Warriors dance team director, Sabrina Ellison, decides which girls are the captains of the team,” he said. “She announces this in September during Warrior Girls training camp.”
The Warrior Girls hold practices at ClubSport in San Ramon.
Hundreds of women in colorful attire came to Oakland over the weekend looking for a coveted spot on The Warrior Girls squad, the official dance team of the Golden State Warriors.
These preliminary auditions for the 2013-14 team were held on Saturday, July 20th at the Warriors Practice Facility in downtown Oakland. The audition process will take place over several days, with finalists selected from the preliminary auditions attending an interview, boot camp and final auditions on July 26th at the Warriors Practice Facility.
Judges at the auditions were on the lookout for technical, talented dancers and performers with a positive, energetic personalities.
For more information and to see the ladies for yourself, check out our video and slideshow.
The Warrior Girls, the official dance team of the Golden State Warriors, hosted their first-ever alumni night during the team’s game against the Utah Jazz on Sunday night. Eighty former Warrior Girls, including members of the original 1985 dance team, joined the 18 current dancers for a pre-game gathering and special halftime routine. This choreographed routine featured alumni from each individual era performing to their music from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s, with all 98 Warrior Girls joining together to conclude the performance. (Photo Credits: Jack Arent/NBA Entertainment)
Eighty Warrior Girls alumni, including seven members of the original Warrior Girls dance team in 1985, celebrated the dance team’s 28 season with the Warriors Girls Alumni Weekend and halftime performance
At halftime, all 98 current and former Warrior Girls assembled on court to dance to Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud”
After an original performance from the current Warrior Girls, dance team alumni since 2000 took the court to dance to Beyonce’s Crazy in Love, followed by WG’s from the 1990’s dancing to MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This and the original Warrior Girls dancing to Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T.
As a finale, all 98 Warrior Girls united to perform Beyonce’s Run The World
On Monday, March 11 The Warrior Girls dance team participated in the Golden State Warriors’ 3rd annual Bollywood Night presented by Adobe. The Warrior Girls dressed in traditional Indian attire and performed a Bollywood-style dance in the first quarter as the Warriors faced the New York Knicks.
Each color that the Warrior Girls wore Monday night has a significant meaning in Indian culture.
· The color red represents beauty, purity, love and fertility
· Blue is the national color of sport
· Green signifies hope, virtue and new beginnings
· Gold is a symbol of wealth, good health and power
This is the second time this season the Warrior Girls have celebrated the cultural diversity in the Bay Area through both their dance routine and attire. On February 12 against the Houston Rockets, the Warrior Girls wore traditional Chinese dress to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the team’s Asian Heritage Night festivities, presented by Cache Creek.
Sports Illustrated has posted a collection of NBA dance team photos from the last week. The gallery includes teams from the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic, and Dallas Mavericks. Click here to check it out!
CBS Miami has a couple of new galleries of NBA dance teams in action last week. I’m super excited to see a few of mah girlz featured. Click here for photos from January 11th. Click here for photos from January 18th.
Rookie Laker Girl Mekyala
Rookie Silver Dancer Anncell
Shannon (veteran) and Ashley (rookie) from the Clippers Spirit