woman is touching her lips with finger Super Bowl 48 is just days away, and while many will tune in to watch the Seahawks battle it out against the Broncos, a variety of funny commercials, and the Bruno Mars-Red Hot Chili Peppers halftime show combo, there’s one thing the NFL won’t be putting on full display—salary.

And, more specifically, I mean what it pays fails to pay its cheerleaders.

Yahoo recently published a story about how the Raiderettes—cheering squad for the Oakland Raiders—is suing the team saying it, “withholds all pay from the Raiderettes until after the season is completed, does not pay for all hours worked and forces the cheerleaders to pay many of their own business expenses.”

But what came as more of a shock was when the story explained that the cheerleaders’ lawyer said the women only make $1,250 per year, which doesn’t even add up to $5 per hour.

That’s not even minimum wage.

The story continues to explain the unfortunate plight of cheerleaders when it comes to unfair compensation. It reads:

San Diego Chargers cheerleaders get $75 for each home game, along with two game tickets and one parking pass. The Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders make $100 for each of 10 (mandatory) performances at home games. That includes showing up five hours before the game starts, practicing twice a week for three hours from April through January, and participating in a “training camp” each June.

Another website explains how it is for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, saying that although the women bring in around $1 million for the team, they only earn $150 per game. The story explains that, “there’s no pay for practices. None for photo shoots. No insurance to cover you if you get injured. No job security.”

Yet, TheRichest.com explains how a practice squad player, someone who may never set foot on the field, can make around $100,000 for the season. And before you argue, “Well, Cheerleaders aren’t football players,” (as if that justifies anything), the site also explains how, “NFL mascots get paid anywhere between $23,000 and $65,000 per year, and that’s not including benefits or yearly bonuses.”

This wage discrepancy is despicable. And although barely paying cheerleaders may be the NFL’s best kept secret, it’s not America’s.

  • In 2012, women still only earned 77 percent of what men earned.
  • Compared with non-Hispanic white men, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian women were paid 66 percent, African American women were paid 64 percent, American Indian/Alaska Native women were paid 60 percent, and Hispanic women were paid just 53 percent.
  • The pay gap increases with age as women ages 35 through retirement typically earn 75–80 percent of men’s earnings while younger women workers (especially in Washington D.C.) can earn 90 percent of men’s earnings.

The non-profit also reported that the wage gap exists in every occupation— that includes female-dominated, gender-balanced, and male-dominated occupations.

TheRichest.com reported that the New Orleans Saints are paying $40 million this season. And although he may be the highest paid in the NFL, there are many more MALE football players like him who earn millions while their FEMALE cheerleading counterparts don’t even earn .05 percent of that.

Stories explain how cheerleaders have to find other sources of income and are expected to use the “benefits” of working for the NFL—like public appearances and networking—to earn more cash. But I wonder why is it expected for women to do this but not men? Because the players are actually playing football means that they should be exempt from finding other streams of income (out of necessity). And this is even though cheerleaders also work extremely hard and bring in revenue for the NFL team as well.

Again, I think it’s despicable, especially seeing how the NFL has no problem shelling out money to everyone else in its franchise, and especially since this $9 billion “non-profit” is tax exempt.

The NFL shows players how much they’re “worth” when it comes to compensation. And they expect them to perform to a certain degree for their salaries.

Teams require cheerleaders to endure practices sometimes six hours long, attend mandatory rehearsals without compensation, show up at games five hours early and work through 12-hour game days, and (as one Raiderette explained) foot the bill for makeup, travel expenses and photo shoots, which all add up. Women even have to shell out money for fees, prep classes and consultants in hopes of even making the cut.

Like the players, these ladies are expected to look and perform a certain way, yet aren’t compensated for the amount of time and effort it takes to do so. Many praise and support the NFL for the work it produces while not realizing that it also adds to our nation’s problem of gender and pay inequality. And promoting the wage gap is one secret that deserves to be let out of the bag.

The title of this story was inspired by a line in the attributed story from TheRichest.com.

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