Tribeca 2019: A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem

A still from A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem. Courtesy of Cheer Film, LLC.

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem is yet another documentary that the National Football League doesn’t want you to see.

The NFL has a running list of issues that are drawing fans away from the game.  These include CTE, a weak domestic violence policy, and fining players for kneeling.  Here’s another that should make you angry:  paying cheerleaders next to nothing while the game brings in billions.  In essence, the NFL is stealing wages and illegally employing cheerleaders.  This isn’t a recent practice for the NFL.  No, it goes back some 50 years!

Everything changed when Lacy Thibodeaux-Fields decided to file a lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders in 2014.  Who could blame her?!?  Here’s a for-profit organization that isn’t even paying cheerleaders enough money in order to get by on a daily basis.  All in all, a single paycheck for NFL cheerleaders doesn’t even amount to the legal minimum age.  This means that cheerleaders are on their own.  When it comes to clothing, transit, and the ever-important beauty upkeep, there’s not much support from their employers.  Cheerleaders would have to fundraise to raise money themselves.  Here’s the kicker: none of the money is tax-deductible!

When Lacy filed her lawsuit, more cheerleaders would follow in her footsteps.  Over the last few years, over a dozen lawsuits would be filed for sexual harassment alone.  When you the Times’ Up and #MeToo movements into account, there’s a lot of exposure the NFL doesn’t want you to know.  It is not just limited to these issues.  Nope, there’s also matters of labor code violations and even toxic masculinity.  The list probably goes on and on.

Never mind the fact that NFL cheerleaders would get paid at an amount that’s well beneath that of mascots or even the water boys.  Hell, even the people working concession stands get paid minimum wage plus tips.  But the cheerleaders?  They’re at the bottom of the totem pole.

It should really come has no surprise that a number of NFL cheerleaders would file a lawsuit.  I say good for them!  What filmmaker Yu Gu does is capture these former cheerleaders on screen and share their stories.  Whether it’s a personal or legal, they need to be heard.  The end result is the historic class-action lawsuit that these women–among others–filed against the NFL.

When you add everything together, it reminds me that I made the right decision to stop watching the NFL.  I can’t tell you what to do with your remote control or television viewing habits.  What I can tell you is that I feel better about myself with no longer watching the NFL.  It’s a violent game that only brings on serious body trauma when concussions go undiagnosed.  When you watch A Woman’s Work, it might just become the last straw.  It should, anyway.

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem is a stark reminder that the NFL has a whole lot of problems.

FEATURING:  Maria Pinzone, Lacy Thibodeaux-Fields, Darci Burrell, Sharon Vinick, Leslie Levy, Sean Cooney

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem holds its world premiere during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in the Documentary Competition. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.