Judge tosses suit against NFL over cheerleader wages

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawsuit accusing the NFL and team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders lacks evidence to support that claim, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the lawsuit by a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader. The suit sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

“To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only ‘ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,’” Alsup said. “The complaint must answer the basic questions of ‘who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?’”

An email to an attorney for the 49ers cheerleader, Drexel Bradshaw, was not immediately returned. The cheerleader was only identified in the suit as “Kelsey K.”

Alsup gave her an opportunity to amend the lawsuit and refile it by June 15.

The lawsuit was among a spate of legal actions in recent years accusing NFL teams of failing to pay cheerleaders for hours they spent practicing and making public appearances.

California legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago requires cheerleaders receive at least minimum wage and overtime and sick leave if they work for professional sports teams based in California.

The lawsuit before Alsup claimed that cheerleaders received only a flat, per-game fee. It also said the NFL and its teams conspired to prohibit cheerleaders from seeking employment with other professional cheerleading teams and from discussing their earnings with each other.

Alsup said he would expect at least some evidence to support a conspiracy on the scale alleged in the lawsuit — possibly a former NFL employee coming forward to “provide the details of ‘who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when’ regarding some actual conspiratorial meeting, communication or agreement.”

The lawsuit, instead, alleges similar policies for cheerleaders among NFL teams, Alsup said. The judge said those policies could just as easily have been implemented by each team independently.

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