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The Buffalo Bills filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit from five former cheerleaders who claimed they were underpaid and mistreated by the Bills and two third-party companies that managed the team's cheerleaders.
Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, LLP, attorneys for the Bills, claim that "the selection, training, equipping, and compensation paid to any members of the cheerleading squad rests exclusively with the third parties" and that the Bills simply licensed the "Buffalo Jills" trademark to those outside companies: Stejon Productions Corp. and, formerly, Citadel Broadcasting Company.
Wednesday's motion effectively splits the litigation surrounding the Jills into three sides, with the Bills now claiming they shouldn't be subject to the lawsuit filed against their contracted firms by the former cheerleaders.
"We are aware of public statements and allegations that have surfaced since the start of the recent litigation which attempt to give the impression that our organization employs cheerleaders. Such statements are inaccurate and misleading," the Bills said in a statement. "Today we respond to these allegations as part of the legal process and remain confident in our position in this matter."
Stephanie Matecezun, president of Stejon Productions Corp., said last week that the Bills had tried to distance themselves from their cheerleaders in light of the lawsuit.
"It has also been incredibly disappointing to see the complete lack of accountability on the part of the Buffalo Bills organization as it relates to this complaint," Matecezun said in a statement released May 7 by her attorney. "The Buffalo Bills own the trademark for the Jills, they control the field and everything that happens on that field, from the uniforms the cheerleaders wear to the dances they perform. Yet the organization appears content to attempt to wash their hands of any connection to their own cheerleading squad."
Two days after the lawsuit was filed last month, Matecezun announced that the Jills had suspended activities indefinitely. As a result, the Bills may not have cheerleaders on their sidelines this season.
"Buffalo Bills fans have long appreciated the Buffalo Jills cheerleaders as a part of the game day entertainment," the Bills said in a statement Wednesday. "Additionally, our organization recognizes the significant contribution that members of the Buffalo Jills have played in supporting many charitable organizations in our community." The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court, says the cheerleaders worked hundreds of hours for free at games and were subjected to groping and sexual comments at mandatory public appearances. One said they had to take a "jiggle test" so their boss could see how firm their bodies were.
The former cheerleaders also allege that the Jills are wrongly classified as independent contractors and are subjected to policies that violate the state's $8 per hour minimum wage law and other workplace rules.
The lawsuit is the fourth filed this year against an NFL team by its cheerleaders. A former New York Jets cheerleader filed a wage-theft lawsuit against the team last week, and the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals also have pending wage battles.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.