By Jim Hightower on January 31, 2014

Let's turn now to the Wide, Wide, WILD World of Sports.

The big story at this time of year, of course, is the Super Bowl, that multi-multi-million dollar showcase of super-paid superstars, billionaire owners, taxpayer-financed sports palaces, extravagant corporate skyboxes serving deep-fried caviar, and TV ads running $4 million for a 30-second spot. But behind the scenes of this big money sports extravaganza is a sordid secret of illegal cheating.

No, not the use of steroids. Rather, this scandal is about the NFL's use and abuse of cheerleaders. Astonishingly, these glamorous, athletic, and very-hard-working ladies -- who bring sideline pizzaz to the show and are used by owners to promote the team brand and ticket sales -- are paid less than the beer hawkers on game day, less than a McDonald's crew member, and way less than minimum wage. Yes, that's illegal, which is why some Raiderettes (the popular cheerleaders of Oakland's NFL team) have filed a lawsuit for wage theft against the owners.

Overall, pro-team cheerleaders get $70 to $90 per game. That's for a 12-hour game day, plus uncompensated practice sessions that routinely run a grueling six hours, and mandatory promotional appearances. The teams nickel-and-dime the women by shorting their hours, and they even illegally fine their pep-leaders for such nonsense "transgressions" as bringing the wrong pom-poms to practice. And no health care for a job that puts you at constant risk of injury.

Then there's this Dickensian twist; The club management withholds all cheerleader pay -- as meager as it is -- until the end of the season, so the women are essentially indentured servants to teams wallowing in wealth, that the teams siphon out of the pockets of ticket holders and taxpayers.

To the NFL: BOO, BOOOO, BOOOOOOO!

Photo: Flickr user Joe Bielawa, creative commons licensed.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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