A former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader is suing America’s most recognizable team. Erika Wilkins filed a lawsuit alleging unpaid wages. Wilkins’ suit alleges that the all-female team were paid thousands of dollars less than the team’s mascot—who was often portrayed by a male.
During the 2014-2015 season, Wilkins was only paid $8 an hour—slightly above the federal minimum wage. After taxes, she only made about $4,700 each year. Meanwhile, she claims that the team’s mascot, Randy, was paid $64,000 a year in addition to receiving commission.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges that she did not receive pay for the hours she worked on a weekly basis. Nor did she receive overtime pay.
In an interview with the New York Post Wilkins said she wanted to be a part of the “prestigious” team since the seventh or eighth grade.
“At the end of the day prestige doesn’t pay my rent,” Wilkins said. “I can’t walk down to my leasing office and them my uniform for the month.”
Wilkins’ career as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader ended in August 2017 after suffering a neck and shoulder injury.
The lawsuit draws focus to the treatment of cheerleaders in the NFL. Wilkins said there was a requirement for cheerleaders keep up their appearances after a makeover. However, the team provided no gym memberships or stipends to pay for salon appointments and other appearance upkeep needed; despite pressure to look a certain way.
“[The Cowboys organization] is selling our image, our likeness—images of our bodies that we work very hard to keep in shape—and they’re the only ones make the profit,” Wilkins said.
The Cowboys offered a Wilkins a settlement for back wages and unpaid wages, however, she is unwilling to settle.
“My goal is to help other cheerleaders, and women as a whole,” she said.
Other lawsuits pending against the NFL
Over the last year, there have been several former NFL cheerleaders who have come forward to take action against their former teams.
In March, for example, former New Orleans Saint cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Davis’ suit alleges that the football players and cheerleaders have different sets of rules that favor players.
Additionally, two separate groups of Houston Texans cheerleaders filed lawsuits against the team. Four former cheerleaders allege they were subjected to harassment about their appearances by the team’s cheerleading director.
The other class action lawsuit, by a different group of cheerleaders, alleges they were subject to bullying, harassment and body-shaming. In addition, they allege that they did not receive payment for public appearances.
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