NFL Cheerleaders' Latest Indignity

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

A new game-day experience app will allow fans to summon cheerleaders to their seats. What could possibly go wrong?

As NFL cheerleaders file lawsuits about low wages and cite invasive personal-hygiene policies, the league has a new indignity in store for its least-valued employees.

The NFL is adding a way for season-ticket holders to "enhance" the game-day experience by summoning a cheerleader to their seat with a mobile app. The Sports Business Journal initially wrote about it under the headline "NFL Ups Fun Factor Via Technology."

AP Photo/John Raoux

If calling scantily clad women in sequins and fringe to your seat sounds reminiscent of a low-level lap dance, get your mind out of the gutter. Absolutely no one has ever thought that before. And clearly, this is nothing like that. NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said it's a way you could get a photo opportunity for your daughter with a team employee.

And, if you do it early enough in the season before the cold weather arrives, that team employee's belly button.

A few people have brought up "Fun Factor" doomsday scenarios, like the potential for women to be harassed by beer-dulled, handsy fans. As someone who has watched people publicly vomit at the height of their game-day experience, I say how dare anyone impugn the good name of the NFL?!

This is the largest and most visible group of women working in the league, even though technically they work for individual teams or third parties and not the NFL itself. Cheerleaders from five teams detail all sorts of gross treatment in their complaints -- including being encouraged to sit on fans' laps. The NFL has declined to discuss the lawsuits, or say whether the suits will prompt some standardization among teams when it comes to pay structure and respect.

Aiello said a team staffer would accompany the cheerleaders chosen to venture into the stands, just like they do the (better-paid) mascots. But given how little job security the cheerleaders have said they have in their legal filings, it's easy to imagine a situation where they could face harassment and be afraid to complain for fear of losing their jobs -- as one of the Buffalo Jills said in her complaint against the third party that operated the cheer group.

The one thing the NFL understands is money. Players haggle for every penny of a contract, and owners press cities for tax breaks and new stadiums. Money is a universal language, and that's why paying cheerleaders so little speaks volumes.

So let's just get the optics of this: The NFL's teams -- where men in suits get paid, sweetheart -- are compelling cheerleaders to march their boots over those empty beer bottles en route to strangers, pose and smile.

Really, what could go wrong?

Other things that have been on my mind ...

• NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will talk to reporters this weekend in Canton, Ohio, and no doubt be asked to explain a two-game suspension of running back Ray Rice, whose Ravens have already manufactured a nice "overcoming adversity" narrative for everyone to choke on. Goodell could mitigate the damage somewhat by announcing a plan to fast-track domestic violence into the collective-bargaining agreement -- and allow an independent arbitrator, since his understanding of the subject is clearly lacking.

• The NBA players' association elected Michele Roberts as its new head. The story wasn't accompanied by a lot of fanfare that she was the first woman in the role, and that is a sign of progress.

• I'm reading "Collision Low Crossers" by Nick Dawidoff. It got pretty good reviews but it's basically a love letter to the Jets' coaching staff of the 2011 season, where all the men were handsome and hardworking. Surely there were a few unflattering anecdotes discovered in the year of reporting? I give this book three homers on a scale to five.

• A report says FIFA will not make public the findings of a corruption investigation into the bidding process that awarded Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the next in 2022. I forget, is looking into charges of corruption but keeping the results secret called irony or coincidence?

• In a week like this I needed "The Bachelorette" finale, in which winner Josh Murray said he really liked the sound of what could be Andi Dorfman's married name -- Andi Murray. Hmm, seems oddly familiar. Maybe now, Andi can stop prosecuting cases for a living and win a Wimbledon title.

• Katherine Webb, who made grown analysts babble as the camera panned, wed quarterback AJ McCarron. I will admit, I never expected their relationship to survive her insta-fame, and in cases like this, my cynicism doesn't usually let me down. But instead, that's the sound of me releasing a box of butterflies as they happily dash to the limo. Good luck, kids!

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