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AFL-CIO Stands with NFL Cheerleader and Oakland Raiderette Lacy T.

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Jackie TortoraCheerleading for professional sports is more than sporting sparkly midriff-baring tops, white cowboy boots and zipping off to calendar shoots…it’s a job. And it’s demanding.

Between mandatory practices, public appearances, strict image guidelines that require lots of money for upkeep and performing at the games, it’s a lot of hard work.

Generally people are paid for the work they do in a formal employment relationship. But unfortunately, that’s not a reality for NFL cheerleaders. Because it’s a “love what you do” kind of job, many of these women are taken advantage of in the form of wage theft. And Lacy T., an Oakland Raiderette, took a very strong stand against wage theft earlier this year when she filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders.

According to ESPN, the lawsuit alleged that the Raiders failed to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage for all hours worked, withheld pay until the end of the season, required cheerleaders to cover their own business expenses, don’t provide lunch breaks and impose fines for minor infractions—all of which, according to the suit, constitute violations of the California Labor Code.

ESPN writer Amanda Hess makes the case that even though the NFL is hugely profitable and football players, by coming together in their union, are able to collectively bargaining for better wages, cheerleaders are still seen as expendable.

Of the 26 teams that employ cheerleaders, only Seattle publicly advertises that it pays its squad an hourly minimum wage. The tenuous position of NFL cheerleaders is exacerbated by the fact that six teams don’t fork out any cash for squads.

We see it happening with Walmart workers. We see it happening with paid sick days. Women workers all over the country are linking arms and demanding better workplaces—and they’re winning.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler took notice of Lacy T.’s story and sent her a letter this week commending her courage:

I was very moved by your courage in standing up to some very powerful interests. It reminds me of the many union members we represent, especially women, who are lifting up their voices in workplaces all over the country, often against overwhelming odds. I believe your willingness to speak out will be a turning point toward a better future for other young women who want to take their skills and experience to the professional level.

In a statement, Lacy T. said:

I love being a Raiderette, but someone has to stand up for all of the women of the NFL who work so hard for the fans and the teams….I hope cheerleaders across the NFL will step forward to join me in demanding respect and fair compensation.

This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on April 11, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jackie Tortora is the blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.

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The NFL Bounty Scandal Is a Labor Issue As Well As a Safety Issue

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Alyssa RosenbergIt’s awful to hear the news that the during their recent great years, the Saints were involved in a system that offered players bounties if they injured the players on opposing teams. The scandal is a setback for the NFL’s efforts to make football a safer, more sustainable game, showing that team and player cultures are fiercely resistant to that league-wide imperative. But it’s also a failure of the NFL collective bargaining agreement by the players who ought to be protected by it, and an illustration of the difficult web of financial incentives players negotiate.

The explanation of how the bounty system worked is a fascinating look at the financial stratification within NFL teams. The bounty system was organized by the Saints’ former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, and he kept running the system even after he was specifically ordered by the team to shut it down. But the bounties themselves were offered—and paid—not by the team but by Saints players to Saints players. And they worked as incentives because special teams players who are in a position to inflict those injuries make less than the teammates who offered them the bounties. And that doesn’t even always work out. As Deadspin pointed out, the fines Bobby McCray was assessed for a hit to Brett Favre probably cost him more than he made based on the report’s assessment of what he would have made in bounties.

But however complicated the financial interests are here—and even scarier than the fact the bounties were being offered in the locker room is the news that folks outside the team appeared to be ponying up money—it’s a worrisome illustration of how the league’s compensation patterns could make bounties seem worth reaching for, and could lead to them violating their own collective bargaining agreement. It’s hard to believe that the Saints or any other team would offer bounties in the expectation that they were the only team doing it. And if everyone’s ignoring the collective bargaining agreement’s ban on bounties, then everyone’s ramping up their own risk of being injured by participating in the system. I don’t envy the NFL and the players’ union the task of tweaking those incentives and enforcement to try to make the ban on bounties operative.

Especially since players are coming into the NFL after years of a training that incentivizes hard hits, even if there pride rather than money at stake. I do think that there is a difference between a reward for making a good play and a reward specifically for injuring someone. But I don’t know how meaningful that difference is. I love football, and I struggle with that love and my questions about whether the game as played can be made safer while still remaining exciting.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on March 5, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture reporter for ThinkProgress.org. She is a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com and The Loop 21. Alyssa grew up in Massachusetts and holds a B.A. in humanities from Yale University. Before joining ThinkProgress, she was editor of Washingtonian.com and a staff correspondent at Government Executive. Her work has appeared in Esquire.com, The Daily, The American ProspectThe New RepublicNational Journal, and The Daily Beast.

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Ex-NFL Player Can’t Score Medical Records

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Steven WardAnyone who watches NFL games each week is witness to organized warfare, with players delivering excruciating and merciless blows to the opposition. To deal with the frequent injuries, players are often given a shot of the painkiller Toradol, known medically as Ketorolac, before games.

A dozen former NFL players have filed a class-action in U.S. District Court in New Jersey against the league, claiming that they weren’t warned of the consequences of taking the drug. The players allege that among other side effects, Toradol masked pain, which masked the symptoms of concussion. Playing through their head injuries, the suit states, has brought on long term debilitating conditions, such as “anxiety, depression, short-term memory loss, severe headaches, sleeping problems and dizziness.”

If the NFL is taking these allegations seriously, it has a funny way of showing it: it still permits the painkiller to be administered during play.

In a recent NY Times op-ed, former Denver Broncos player (2003-2008) Nate Jackson, who is not a party to the lawsuit, wrote of his own experiences with the drug, which included routinely lining up with his teammates before games for injections. He was never quite sure why.

As to how much Toradol he was given during his tenure with the Broncos, or the results of any tests given at the time of his playing, the op-ed was silent — not because Mr. Jackson didn’t want to tell us, but because he couldn’t.

He can’t access his medical records: “Even after I filed a workers’ compensation lawsuit against the Broncos a year ago that later included a request for that folder,” he writes, “I still don’t have it. The team hasn’t released it to me.”

How can this be? All of us have an absolute right to our medical records, right?


In the leading case on the subject, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1975 that that we patients don’t have a constitutionally protected rights to direct and unrestricted access of our medical records.

Partly to remedy that incongruity, in 1996 the Department of Health and Human Services passed Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal regulation granting people a general right to access (not ownership) of their medical records. This regulation requires a “covered entity” to furnish either a copy or access to the records within 30 days of a patient’s request.

OK, now we’re talking. So Mr. Jackson has a legal right to see his records immediately, right?

The medical care model in professional sports has made for an interesting dynamic among the doctors, teams, and players. The current trend is for the doctors to be supplied by hospitals who pay the team to use their services in exchange for advertising and other perks. If this is how Mr. Jackson was treated, and he’s made his request to the doctors and hospitals that cared for him, he has a valid claim under HIPPA to view his records.

But if a full-time team physician employed exclusively by the Denver Broncos treated him during his NFL years, it doesn’t seem as though the Denver Broncos would be considered a “covered entity”.

State laws may provide more access rights than the floor set by HIPPA and most states have medical access statutes that recognize patients’ right to access their records. In Colorado, for example, where Mr. Jackson’s medical treatment primarily took place, state law recognizes the patient’s right to access his medical records “at reasonable times and upon reasonable notice.”

We’ve found no case law that directly pertains to Mr. Jackson’s situation – and we tried.

Anyone with comments or thoughts, we invite you to weigh in.

This blog originally appeared in Legal as She is Spoke, a project of the  Law and Journalism track at New York Law School, on February 22, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Steven Ward (3L) proudly hails from the Jersey Shore. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a bachelors degree in Sport Management. Steven has completed internships with Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals, the NYC Office of Emergency Management and the NYPD. Steven looks forward to working in the sports and entertainment industry.

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