Now come five Buffalo Jills, joining the growing list of NFL cheerleaders suing their team for allegedly flouting state and federal employment laws. In many ways, their story shows how standardized these practices have become. But in terms of micromanagement, neither of the other cheerleading teams quite matches Buffalo's, whose Jills were apparently instructed on "how to properly wash 'intimate areas.'"
The complaint, which you can find below, lays out the case against the team, as well as two other outfits, Citadel (owners of a radio station) and Stejon. (Long story short, since 1986, the Bills have outsourced management of their cheerleaders to various third parties; Citadel and Stejon were two such parties when the cheerleaders in question were cheering.) The Jills were given a lengthy handbook outlining the various rules and regulations they had to abide by, under threat of penalty, according to the lawsuit.
z65. In addition to the rules previously cited, defendants also provided the Jills with rules regarding general hygiene and body maintenance (a list of 17 rules), appearance etiquette (17 rules), conversation starters for appearances and general etiquette, etiquette for formal dining (25 rules), and rules for communicating with people with disabilities (17 rules).
66. The extensive rulebook set forth by defendants includes, inter alia, rules on how much bread to eat at a formal dinner, how to properly eat soup, how much to tip restaurant waiters, wedding etiquette, how to properly wash "intimate areas," and how often to change tampons.
Advice to live by, I'm sure—but stuff your mother probably told you about before you showed up to cheerleader tryouts.
As in all our other examples, the cheerleaders' physical appearance was scripted down to the last fingernail ("must be maintained with a French manicure or natural polish"). Instead of the weekly weigh-ins we saw with the Ravenettes, Jills were subjected to the "Jiggle Test," according to the suit:
62. In addition, the Jills were subjected to weekly "physique evaluations" during which defendants' representatives tested the Jills' bodies for "jiggling." During the "Jiggle Test" defendants scrutinized the women's stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks. The physique evaluations largely determine whether or not any particular Jill would be allowed to perform at the Bills' next home game. Jills that failed to meet defendants' physical standards received warnings, and in some cases were penalized, suspended or dismissed.
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One cheerleader describes a time she was told to "tone up" her body after one such evaluation. She began a stringent diet and exercise plan, only to be accused later of anorexia. No, the cake is not yours, so you can't eat it, either.
The legal problems, of course, arise from the payment situation—when there was payment, that is. Jills were not paid for working game days. Neither were they paid for the mandatory biweekly practice sessions that usually lasted eight hours in total, according to the suit. On average, the cheerleaders involved in the suit averaged only a few hundred dollars per season, the highest amount being $1,800, the lowest $150. Not surprisingly, the lady who made $150 didn't cheer the next year.
The only real money lay in appearances. But, again, most of the time those didn't pay. The cheerleaders were required to make 30-odd free appearances a season, and the powers that be had sole control over who was selected for one of the profitable paid gigs. Not that the Bills, Citadel, and Stejon went unpaid for providing cheerleaders. According to the complaint, Stejon made $10,000 per sponsorship—sponsored clients made up the bulk of the unpaid appearances—and last season the team had at least 11 such arrangements.
There were other events. The cheerleaders host an annual "Junior Jills" program in three cities, where young girls are taught the basics of cheering. The suit says 300-400 girls attend these camps and pay as much as $250 a pop to show up. The Jills did not receive payment.
The grossest event the Jills had to endure was the annual golf tournament:
A. The Jills Annual Golf Tournament–Select Jills were required to wear a bikini, and then go into a dunk tank, where they were dunked in water by the golf tournament participants. Jills cheerleaders are also "auctioned off" like prizes at this event, and had to ride around with the winning bidder in his golf cart for the duration of the tournament. While serving as a "bought person" they were subjected to additional demeaning treatment, including degrading sexual comments and inappropriate touching. Oftentimes, the Jills were forced to sit on participants' laps because there was not enough seats in the golf carts. The golf tournament also featured a "Flip for Tips" component, wherein participants paid gratuities to watch select Jills do backflips and acrobatics for the gratification of the crowd. (The Jills did not receive any of the tip money).
Not that "The Man Show" was any picnic, either. In that event, held at a casino, the cheerleaders were led around the floor in their bikinis to the delight of the guys in attendance. Like the Jills Annual Golf Tournament, "The Man Show" was an unpaid event.
If you want more on the schedule of penalties inflicted on the cheerleaders, the familiar calendar scheme, and the various other indignities, you should read the whole complaint.