The Crazy Demands of Being a Pro Cheerleader

If recent news about the Raiderettes suing the Oakland Raiders for alleged labor-law violations has failed to convince you that being an NFL cheerleader is not as glamorous as it seems, then listen up—because the newly leaked handbook of condescending cheerleader policy just might.

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“It takes 3-5 seconds to form a first impression of someone,” notes part of the Raiderette handbook’s etiquette section, according to Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times. “Keep nail polish pads in your car for emergencies. Smile, shake hands with everyone.” Abcarian explains that she received the handbook in the mail after writing last week about the squad’s class-action lawsuit, led by cheerleader Lacy T. She alleges, among other points, that the team withholds pay—a measly $125 per game—until the season is complete, and that the contract she signed is “packed with illegal provisions.”

More on Yahoo: Oakland Raiderette Cheerleader Accuses Team of Violating Wage Laws

Other bizarre citations from the handbook include:

  • Elaborate descriptions of how to properly meet new people, noting that shaking hands “is an American custom that should be extended immediately upon introduction. A handshake should last about three seconds, be firm, and be web to web.”

  • Details on how to eat in public, with suggestions like, “If you don’t like your meal, try a little of everything and strategically move the rest around your plate,” and, “Gently unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. Fold it almost in half and place it with the fold side towards your body. If you need to leave the table, place the napkin on your chair, and don’t forget to say, ‘Excuse me.’”

  • Specifics about how cheerleaders are fined for missing rehearsals — a task they are not paid for in the first place, alleges the lawsuit.

  • Directions on how to care for the “Raiderette Medallion” necklace, which must be protected from hairspray, perfume, soap, shampoo, silver polish, powders, bronzers and toothpaste.

  • Rules about fraternization between Raiderettes and Raiders players—such as how the cheerleaders are forbidden to attend parties at players’ homes because of the potential for date rape, which could get a cheerleader’s “photo in all the local papers.” 

  • The handbook also notes, “We STRONGLY prefer you do not date any of the players,” urging, “Make a point to find out if a player is married. In most cases, he won’t tell you! You can call the Raider office with questions about marital status and I encourage you to do so. Again, he will not tell you he’s married!”

“The handbook is patronizing and insulting, with outmoded ideas about men and women in the workplace, even if the workplace is not your average office,” Abcarian points out. The media spokesperson for the Oakland Raiders did not return Yahoo Shine's call for comment, and have yet to respond to the latest accusations in the press.

The issue of pro cheerleaders being overworked and underpaid—treated like girls who will do just about anything to keep up their pom-pom “hobby”—is not a new one, with many squad members reportedly earning only about $1,000 annually. In 2009, ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook wrote that it’s “objectionable if everyone involved in an NFL contest is making buckets of money, except for the cheerleaders. That's the case, and that is a form of exploitation.” He added, “Cheerleader squads practice twice a week, and in most cases, cheerleaders are not paid for practicing. Some are charged to audition. They make unpaid charity appearances… ‘Do it cheap or we'll find someone else who will’ is manipulation. Cheerleaders are professional performers and deserve decent pay.”

In the 1990s, the cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills, the Jills, became the first professional squad to form a union after being forced to purchase their own shoes and Super Bowl tickets, according to AlterNet. But they were soon forced to disband and, even after reforming under new management, could not make the idea of a union stick.

Not all professional cheerleaders take offense to the demands — and limitations — of the job.  For some, just being a part of the squad is enough of a pay off.  “I mean, for football games we get paid $75—that's no secret," Redskins cheerleader Jamilla Keene told the Washington Post back in 2010. "You do it for the love of what you do."

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