Last year, the Milwaukee Bucks became the first NBA team named in such a suit when former dancer Lauren Herington filed a complaint on behalf of she and her team-mates alleging gross underpayment and illegally mandated out-of-pocket expenses. Soon after filing, she shared with me emails, agreements, and detailed notes that she kept during her tenure as a Bucks dancer. If her accusations are true, the team did not treat employees – described in the organization’s own internal agreement as, “high profile members of the Milwaukee Bucks community” – with the respect or compensation they were entitled to. Prior to working for the Milwaukee Bucks, Herington too was excited about being treated as a “high-profile” member of the organization. She equated being a professional cheerleader with being a “mini celebrity”. As is the case with many professional cheerleaders, she had been dancing since early childhood, and had long dreamed of a spot on an NBA squad.
Salary was not discussed in the month-long unpaid bootcamp Herington attended prior to being hired by the Bucks. This was also the case at a workshop I attended for potential Clippers dancers for another article last year, where we were told wages would be discussed only after we were hired. It was also the case for Murray, who recalled of the Warriors Girls, “They have a day where you come in, and you read the contract together, and you sign it. And that’s when I found out I was making $10 an hour. I remember just being outraged.” “There was no discussing it,” Herington said, of her experience signing after she’d already relocated to Milwaukee to work on the team. “It was, ‘If you have an issue, then you can go ahead and just leave.’ We weren’t allowed to take it home, and go through it or anything like that. It was just handed out at practice. We signed it and gave it back.” According to the agreement, she would be paid $30 per bi-weekly two- to four-hour practice; $65 per weekly 6.5 hour home game; and $50 per two- to four-hour public appearance.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ dance squad is getting its own reality series. E! Entertainment said Monday the series that is scheduled to debut early next year will show what it’s like to be a member of the squad on and off the court. Eight one-hour episodes of “L.A. Clippers Dance Squad” are scheduled to air on the cable network. The show will take viewers through summer auditions to choose the squad and the dancers’ emotions and ambitions. Among the producers of the series is Cash Warren, husband of actress Jessica Alba and whose father Mike Warren starred at UCLA under basketball coach John Wooden. The show is produced by Mandalay Sports Media, whose co-founder is Peter Guber, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lauren Herington, a former dancer for the Milwaukee Bucks, sued the team in federal court in Wisconsin last month, charging that she had been paid well under the minimum wage during the 2013-14 season. Hers is the first suit of its kind in the N.B.A., and it could have implications both for the roughly 40 women who would qualify as members of a Bucks class action and for the broader league.