NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four former cheerleaders for the Houston Texans called on the National Football League for fairer pay and work conditions in a letter they delivered on Monday to the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell.
The letter came three days after the cheerleaders sued the Houston Texans in federal court, saying the team had failed to pay them the minimum wage or compensate for overtime and that the cheerleading coach created a hostile work environment.
“Cheerleaders are being exploited and mistreated solely because they are women,” Gloria Allred, the cheerleaders’ attorney, said, reading from the letter at a sidewalk news conference outside NFL headquarters in New York. “These cheerleaders deserve to be paid more than a mere pittance.”
An NFL security official then met with Allred and the cheerleaders outside the building to accept the letter, but there was no immediate response on the letter from an NFL spokesman.
The former cheerleaders’ lawsuit, filed in the Houston district court, said they were meant to be paid $7.25 an hour for working for the team but were routinely not paid for compulsory work duties.
That work included traveling to and attending events, signing thousands of team calendars, mandatory gym training and compulsory spray tans before every game, the lawsuit said.
The former cheerleaders also accused their coach of intimidating them with cruel comments about their physical appearance and ignoring concerns about their safety in interactions with overzealous fans.
The team defended itself in a statement last week, saying it was proud of the of the cheerleader program. “We are constantly evaluating our procedures and will continue to make adjustments as needed to make the program enjoyable for everyone,” Amy Palcic, the team spokeswoman, said in her statement.
Cheerleaders have filed similar lawsuits against the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. Cheerleaders who sued the Cincinnati Bengals won a $255,000 settlement in 2015, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers settled with cheerleaders for $825,000 that same year.
Cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins told the New York Times in an article published in May that they were often forced to perform sexualized tasks that made them uncomfortable, including a topless photo shoot. The team said in a statement it protected cheerleaders to “ensure a safe and constructive environment.”
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Peter Cooney