cowboys cheerleaders

The Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders are a large part of their franchise’s America’s Team mystique. They have been the subject of movies; appeared on SNL, Leno, Letterman, Family Feud and more; and earned nicknames and awards. And for all that, a new lawsuit claims, they are paid $8 an hour and sometimes stiffed altogether.

Per the Associated Press, a former Cowboys cheerleader has filed a suit in federal court alleging that she wasn’t always paid for her work, while pointing out that the team’s cheerleaders were paid only $8 an hour, far less than what the male mascot earned.

Erica Wilkins, who worked for the Cowboys from 2014 to 2017, is seeking “unpaid overtime wages, minimum wages, and all other available damages,” citing the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to court documents filed Tuesday. The lawsuit said female cheerleaders were paid at a rate less than “Rowdy,” the mascot. 

The lawsuit claims that Wilkins’ usual pay rate was $8 per hour, but that payment was sometimes incomplete, and that the team’s male mascot made $25 per hour and about $65,000 per year.

This marks the latest in a series of lawsuits and news reports that have peeled back the curtain slightly on life as an NFL cheerleader. This year alone, Texans cheerleaders sued alleging they weren’t fairly compensated, dozens of current and former NFL cheerleaders told the New York Times they were subjected to offensive comments and unwanted touching, and a Times report revealed that Washington cheerleaders were forced to serve as escorts for team sponsors.

All of these stories have made clear that the glamor of NFL cheerleading often conceals difficult work conditions, rampant sexual harassment and poor pay. Hopefully the attention cheerleaders have drawn in recent months will improve things for the current and future generations of women in those roles.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.