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NFL Cheerleaders Make Clever, yet Risky Settlement Offer

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

The relationship between NFL cheerleaders and the teams that employ them has gotten quite litigious over the past few years. The Buffalo Jills sued the Bills franchise, claiming hundreds of hours of unpaid labor along with harassment and degrading sexual comments at team events. A Raiderette sued the Oakland team for numerous wage and hour violations related to minimum wage, overtime, expenses, and breaks. Heck, a San Francisco 49ers cheerleaders even filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL itself, claiming the league "conspired with the Defendant NFL Member Teams to coordinate, encourage, facilitate, and implement the agreement in order to pay female athletes below fair market value."

The lawsuits are often drawn out legal quagmires and in rare cases can result in six-figure settlements that include strong reminders from the teams that they deny any liability or wrongdoing. But two cheerleaders who filed lawsuits against the NFL have a much different settlement idea -- $1 apiece and a meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Cheerleaders v. NFL

Former Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a discrimination complaint against the NFL after she was fired for posting a photo of herself in a bathing suit on Instagram. Former Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Wade filed a similar suit after she says she was fired for discussing her choice to not engage in premarital sex.

Both women are represented by the same Florida attorney, Sara Blackwell. This week, Blackwell sent a 1-page settlement offer to an NFL attorney, asking for $1 each for her clients and a four-hour, "good faith" meeting with Goodell and league lawyers, to "prepare a set of binding rules and regulations which apply to all NFL teams."

"If the NFL is serious about this statement," the settlement offer reads, "then this should be an acceptable settlement demand. It is one that is virtually free for the NFL and for the NFL teams and it will ensure the positive and respectful environment the NFL states is the right of the NFL cheerleaders."

The cheerleaders are also asking for a 5-year moratorium on disbanding cheerleader clubs, to prevent retaliation from teams. Blackwell gave the NFL until May 4 to respond.

Risk v. Reward

"We're not asking them to admit fault, or to admit guilt, or even admit that there is anything wrong," Blackwell told the New York Times. "But if they do want and expect that cheerleaders should have a fair working environment, as they have stated, then it doesn't make any common sense why the answer would be no."

While the settlement offer certainly puts the public relations onus onto the league, the non-binding nature of the offer means that Goodell could very well meet with the cheerleaders and then disregard their claims.

"I understand that they could meet with us, patronize us and do nothing in the end," Ms. Blackwell said. "I understand that risk. But it's a risk we're willing to take to try to have real change."

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