Erica Wilkins, a former cheerleader, is suing the Dallas Cowboys.
Erica Wilkins, a former cheerleader, is suing the Dallas Cowboys.
Patrick Michels

Cowboys Cheerleader Erica Wilkins Sues for Pay With Support From a Former Football Player

Former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Erica Wilkins wants to get paid.

Wilkins is suing the Cowboys, according to the lawsuit, because she was not paid for all the hours she worked. This includes practices, training, rehearsals and filming for the CMT show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Wilkins also claims that when she worked more than 40 hours per week, she was not paid overtime. She also was not paid for her time posting on social media, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also states that the Dallas Cowboys' mascot, Rowdy, was paid about $65,000 per year. Wilkins earned $5,817.99 in 2014, $12,381.09 in 2015, $16,516.01 in 2016 and approximately $8,424.66 in
2017. Wilkins' and Rowdy's jobs required "equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions as Defendant’s mascot," according to the lawsuit.

In a 2015 interview, Shelly Bramhall, an associate choreographer and events coordinator for the cheerleaders, told our clubs editor at the time that cheerleaders must be full-time students or have a full-time jobs on top of being on the squad.

Wilkins has gone on a media tour, interviewing with local news stations. Neither she nor her lawyer responded to multiple requests for comment from the Observer.

Joe Trahan, media relations and corporate communications coordinator for the Cowboys, said in an email that the organization does not have a comment.

Amanda Murphy, a CMT representative, says CMT will not issue any statements on the lawsuit.

Former and current Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, including Brandi Redmond from The Real Housewives of Dallas and Melissa Rycroft, who is featured regularly on the cheerleaders' CMT show, have taken to social media to comment on Wilkins' lawsuit.

But former football player Robert Steeples, who was signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad in 2014 and was released in 2015, commented in support of Wilkins on Instagram.

"This is a topic as a former NFL player that has crossed my mind as I've spent my time in the league," Steeples, who is now the head football coach of De Smet Jesuit High School in Missouri, tells us over the phone. "A lot of the events we do within the community are often accompanied by our respective cheerleaders. Seeing them even in our practice facility behind the scenes and the hours they put in — they were coming in when we were leaving or they were there when we got there. It gave me an even greater respect for what they did."

Commenters on social media have expressed that being a cheerleader isn't about the money. Cheerleaders do it for the experience, and Wilkins knew what she was getting into, many say. Steeples disagrees.

"For her obviously to pursue dance and cheer at that level, cheering for a professional sports organization is the only true avenue that they can pursue that with any financial gain," he says. "Just because you participate in that pursuit of your passion, and in this case it was dance and cheer, doesn't mean you advocate for everything in the system. And so it kind of puts you in a bind as far as, do I pursue my passion or do I look at the numbers and let them steer me away from my passion. That is what is the exploitation of it."

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