History of the Raiderettes – Part 2
Cheerleading in the 1970s through the 1990s
Color TV’s became affordable, and lucrative television contracts followed. With men as the primary audience, of course, sex sells, which eventually made cheerleaders a great source of revenue. With it being a way for girls to meet husbands and others wanting a shot, pay for the girls was non-existent. All photo rights were given up, rules of conduct became books, and even mandatory etiquette classes were given.
After the fame of Farrah Fawcett’s bathing suit poster, a Dallas photographer made a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader poster that made the team $1.8 million, and the girls were paid nothing. A change was needed, and by 1980, cheerleaders didn’t talk about pay, but $15 per home game was common. Cheering at away games, playoff games, and mandatory public appearances were not paid.
Mary Lou Retton tumbled her way into the hearts of Americans in 1984. The US’s new love of gymnastics led to the combination of gymnastics, cheering, and dancing. Some Professional Football teams also added guys and stuntmen to their half-time shows.
Calendars became a large source of income for football teams creating cheerleader celebrities. This lead to personal appearances for cheerleaders that were paid by sponsors. Teams would require a minimum number of team appearances before paid ones were given out. Cheerleaders had become big business.
The 2000’s and being a Raiderette-
Becoming a Raiderette is arguably the second most prestigious cheer team in the country to be a part of. Cheerleading became a recognized sport making competition fierce. Auditions have thousands of applicants show up. Pretty girls and good dancers all apply but only smart, pretty girls with talent are hired. Raiderettes are the best.
Becoming part of the sisterhood of Raiderettes is an honor, and for many, a way of life. Life-long friendships are formed. Becoming close to other girls in your line happens because you spend so much time together. Lines are usually formed according to height. There are reunions with all the past cheerleaders held every 10 years. 2022 should be the next one.
Ethnic variety became important during selections too. With 40 openings per team each season, spots are coveted. Weigh-ins were mandatory, and fines were given for infractions to the rule manual. Pay for the cheerleaders was increased in 2014, from $1250 to $2780 a month after a class-action lawsuit was filed, opening a can of worms in the NFL and among the sisterhood.
Being Treated as Professionals
Despite a contract of non-disclosure, in 2014, a class-action lawsuit was filed by two cheerleaders asking for fair compensation. It stated that some rules were unfair labor practices and definitely not morally correct. Of course, they became unemployed. They claimed that they were not allowed to bring a date to the Christmas party and were not allowed to have a drink. They’d spend hundreds of dollars a month on uniforms, beauty, and supplies and were only paid at the end of the season. Fines were given for forgetting pom-poms and gaining weight ranging from $10- $125.
In 2017 the case with the Oakland Raiders was settled for $1.25 million, giving back pay to cheerleaders from 2010 forward. The Raiderettes- Football’s Fabulous Females- can now afford to live without having a second job while cheering for a living- and it shows.
The Las Vegas Raiderettes
The Raiderettes new facility is down the street from the Raiders’ new Headquarters in Henderson. Auditions were done virtually in 2020. The short’s waistband was raised, and rhinestones were added to their shorts, shirts, and vest. Times may be different, but one thing remains the same- the Raiderettes are among the best dancers in the world!
We’ve come a long way! In the past, the team management would tell their cheerleaders what to wear, what not to wear, where to go, who they could talk to, and even how to fold their napkins. Make-up was decided for them, as well as hair color and fingernail and toe polish – and they wore boots. Jeans were not allowed to be worn in public, and no one could wear team logos either.
Today, thankfully, things are different – especially women’s rights. Cheerleaders are seen by many as talented dancers and athletes. The Raiderettes are treated with respect and appreciated for their talent as well as their beauty. As a woman who admires the team as well as the Raiderettes, I’m proud of the shift that the nation has made towards these Fabulous Females.