Gregg Easterbrook writes in his weekly ESPN column that National Football League teams are “manipulating” and “exploiting” their cheerleaders — er, “professional performers” — by failing to pay them a wage that Gregg Easterbrook deems appropriate:
It is . . . 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. The NFL will have about $8 billion in revenue this season, and Green Bay, the one team that discloses financial information (the Packers are publicly owned), showed a profit of $20 million last year. There’s plenty of money in professional football. But only crumbs go to the cheerleaders. NFL teams are believed to pay cheerleaders approximately $100 per game. (Several teams used to post cheerleader audition FAQs on their Web sites that included such info.) Some throw in two game tickets. Don’t spend it all in the same place!
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. In order to become cheerleaders, they sign away “subsidiary rights” to their images — use in advertising, on swimsuit calendars and so on. Being a NFL cheerleader is glamorous and can entail exciting travel. Many women who take up this very time-consuming hobby would rather be cheerleaders receiving only token pay than not be cheerleaders. But that should not be the choice. “Do it cheap or we’ll find someone else who will” is manipulation. Cheerleaders are professional performers and deserve decent pay.
Steve Czaban of Fox Sports Radio is no Austrian economist, but he does a decent imitation of one in demolishing Easterbrook’s liberal guilt-o-nomics:
NFL cheerleaders are paid exactly what they are worth. They may even be over-paid. How do I know this? Because the NFL has had no problem filling their cheer squads for this price. Ergo: the price is right. The market has spoken.
Trying to staff a cheer squad for a much lesser league at this price, would likely run you into personnel shortages or weight issues. The National Football League, however, carries tremendous resume value for these ladies. It carries community status, it carries secondary value that far exceeds the $100 bucks a game.
If this was not true, then you wouldn’t need tryouts. You would just take the first 12 who volunteered.
As for being “professional performers” this is a stretch. Technically, yes. They perform, and they get paid. Pros. But outside of this, NFL cheerleaders have not gone through any certified training program. Many of them, did not cheer in college. And aside from a few practices during the week, during the season, its not as if they train prior to the season.
Furthermore, in the looks category (both body and face) most of these ladies would be unable to make it as strippers. Sure, many might not want to do that. But I am fairly certain a number of them would. It certainly pays more than $100 a week.
The problem with Easterbook’s argument, is that he’s basically spending other people’s money. Sure, the NFL is a battleship loaded with gold. They could easily “afford” to pay these ladies 10x as much per game.
But what is a “fair” or “decent” wage?
Easterbrook, declined to say. With good reason. There is no firm number, because such a salary would be arbitrarily above market value.