Beyond the sidelines: Pro cheerleaders tell all - FOX 32 News Chicago

Beyond the sidelines: Pro cheerleaders tell all

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

They are one of the most recognizable fixtures in sports - cheerleaders.

"It's amazing to be here in the United Center and perform in front of 22 thousand people," said Kafi Thompson, Luvabulls Cheerleaders' Co-Captain.

In Chicago, there are the Luvabulls.

Their smiles, synchronized moves and swag pump up the United Center.

"The Luvabulls are iconic. It's something that when you're growing up as a little girl you come to the Bulls game and I'm watching the Luvabulls the whole time," said Thompson in an interview with Fox 32's Tisha Lewis.

"We perform on that court with sprained ankles, bruised knees, just like the players do so we go out there every game, giving 100%," said Shante Roberts, Luvabulls Cheerleaders' Coach.

For decades, cheerleaders have supported their teams on and off the court, field and even the ice.

"As a performer, as a cheerleader, you really couldn't ask for anything more than that," said Thompson.

Now, there's a growing movement online and on social media demanding the NFL pay its cheerleaders a living wage.

Luvabulls Cheerleaders' Co-Captain Kafi Thompson says she's heard about it.

"It's one of those things that we're working part time, it's not an 8-5 job, we are dancing at night. I think the part time position is completely adequate and fair," said Thompson.

Los Angeles resident Diane Todd's change.org petition to the Broncos and Seahawks owners has more than 50,000 signatures of support.

"It's time for NFL teams to step up and start paying cheerleaders a living wage and the teams in the play-offs, who have benefited financially from their success, should set an example for the rest of the league," said Todd in her petition.

She started it a month ago, before a former cheerleader filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders for reportedly breaking a laundry list of labor laws including failure to pay.

"If you count for all that extra time and all the extra thing that cheerleaders have to do and are not getting reimbursed for or compensated for you're looking at probably $5 an hour," said attorney Daliah Saper.

Even so, Saper says the supply outweighs the demand.

"There's so many people who are willing to sacrifice a decent hourly wage and who are even willing to work for free in order to be affiliated with the teams that they are willing to look the other way when they in fact should and are entitled to a real wage," said Saper.

Most cheerleaders, including Thompson who has cheered for seven years, have jobs outside of cheerleading.

"I work for a wine and spirits supplier," said Thompson.

"Being an NBA cheerleader now just grants you more opportunities. The opportunities that these girls have is amazing. They travel internationally, like Kafi said they work with well-known choreographers from all over the world," said Roberts.

Decades ago the Honey Bears cheerleaders earned $25 per game. The Chicago Bears dissolved its cheerleading team in the mid 1980's.

For more information on the Honey Bears visit their website.

Now, most NFL and NBA cheerleaders reportedly make somewhere between $60 and $200 dollars per game.

Saper says the NFL should be worried about the current lawsuit against the Raiders by a former "Raiderette" cheerleader.

"I think the answer is yes… If you're telling them you have to wear your hair a certain way, you have to show up on time, you have to wear a certain outfit, then it's clearly not a third party vendor, it's an employee under your direction," said Saper.

The NFL emailed Fox 32's Tisha Lewis saying, "We do not have a comment."

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