NFL cheerleading is being scrutinized after a professional cheerleader sued the New Orleans Saints. Her discrimination complaint comes on top of reports about rules dictating cheerleader behavior.
This includes the Sea Gals, the women who cheer on the Seahawks.
We found a copy of the “Sea Gals Rules” from 2015. The rules say that Sea Gals must arrive at games four hours before kickoff, even if they're not performing. They must keep their uniforms clean at all times — by contrast, operations staff clean the football players' uniforms.
Cheerleaders must also maintain their weight, skin condition and muscle tone or risk being suspended or fired. Members of the squad cannot date or "fraternize" with Seahawks players or any Seahawks employee.
Sea Gals are paid minimum wage, receive overtime and get two tickets for games at which they perform. That’s good compared to other teams: Of the 26 cheerleading squads in the league, they may earn some of the highest wages. That's because they're paid at least minimum wage, which is $11.50 an hour in Washington state.
- Cheerleaders may be fired for inappropriate comments "by you or about you" on personal social media accounts. The rules stipulate that the director of the Sea Gals determines what is inappropriate.
- Cheerleaders may be sent home from a game or practice for weight gain (amount not specified), poor attitude or incapacity.
- Arriving 15 minutes late counts as an absence.
- Cheerleaders will be terminated after three unexcused absences from rehearsals or games.
- The director can set policies on eating, drinking, smoking and "other activities" determined to reflect negatively on the Seahawks.
- The rules "strongly discourage fraternization between Sea Gals and Seahawks players, coaches, mascot, and management personnel.” The rules do not define fraternization but say that fraternizing, “dating, cohabiting or marrying current Seahawks employees may result in removal from the squad."
- And finally, Sea Gals must be age 19 or older with a high school diploma.
The Sea Gals started earning minimum wage in 1997 after billionaire Paul Allen purchased the team. Some cheerleaders with other NFL teams have recently earned as low as $2.75 an hour, according to Forbes. That amounted to $1,250 per season. NFL football players, meanwhile, make $1.9 million on average, according to the magazine.
Gender pay gaps persist in other U.S. pro sports as well. Male soccer players earn four times more than female players, according to Forbes. In basketball, about 50 percent of NBA revenue goes to player salaries, compared to 25 percent of WNBA revenue going to salaries.
Competition for the country's few professional cheerleading spots remains high, which could explain why they are paid so little. The 2018 Sea Gals squad will consist of 24 to 32 members, out of the 100 to 200 expected to try out. Tryouts are currently underway.
The Seattle Seahawks didn’t reply to our request for the most updated Sea Gals rules.