Buffalo Bills’ cheerleaders handbook: Here is how to wash yourselves

A new lawsuit suggests the team management got very personal

Topics: Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Jills, cheerleaders, NFL,

Buffalo Bills' cheerleaders handbook: Here is how to wash yourselvesBuffalo Bills cheerleaders (Credit: AP/Heather Ainsworth)

It turns out the world of professional cheerleaders is often anything but cheerful. If the claims of a new lawsuit are to be believed, it can be a job in which you have to fight for minimum wage while being told how to manage the landscape of your own genital terrain. Following in the footsteps of cheerleaders from the Raiders, Ravens and Bengals who’ve come forward this year with their tales of payment disputes and humiliating working conditions, this week the Buffalo Jills suspended all activities in the wake of the new lawsuit that five of its cheerleaders are pursuing against their team and its cheerleader management groups.

As the Buffalo News reports, the suit against the Bills — a team for which Mario Williams makes $6,500,000 — alleges it “failed to pay the former cheerleaders the $8 minimum wage for all the hours they worked … The five former Jills, who worked as long ago as the 2010-11 season and as recently as the 2013-14 season, were paid amounts ranging from as little as $105 to as much as $1,800 a year.” And what obligation to the organization does this sort of money buy? According to documents obtained by Deadspin, “the Jills were subjected to weekly ‘physique evaluations’ during which defendants’ representatives tested the Jills’ bodies for ‘jiggling.’” More nauseatingly, in its horrifyingly badly punctuated “Glamour requirements” for “General hygiene & lady body maintenance,” cheerleaders were directed to “Don’t use lufa’s [sic] or sponges” and maintain their “intimate area’s [sic]” with tips like “Clean/rinse razor often while shaving. Especially after going to a new ‘area’” and “When menstruating, use a product that right for your menstrual flow. A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.” There’s more – a lot more – in the general guidelines. My favorite, which I am getting made into a T-shirt, is “Do not overeat bread at a formal setting.” BECAUSE CARBS. But “Do not be overly opinionated about anything” is pretty great too, though.

If you’re a professional organization, that organization has a right to expect its representatives to behave in a way that reflects positively upon it, and to conduct themselves appropriately. But I think it’s safe to say that you ought to be paying your women a whole lot better before you get to tell them how big a tampon they ought to be using. And for a team that tells its cheerleaders to not have too many opinions, it certainly seems the Bills have a whole lot of them, about very personal issues that are none of their business.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

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