Target: Oakland Raiders NFL Franchise
Goal: Denounce the Raiders’ sexist guidelines for its cheerleaders, and demand that the team revise its policies
The word “cheerleader” is usually associated with words like “positive” and “upbeat.” But the Oakland Raiders’ cheerleading handbook is anything but positive, outlining policies steeped in misogyny, rape culture, and victim-blaming. Sign the petition and demand that the women who cheer for the Raiders be treated with respect.
The Los Angeles Times recently obtained a copy of the handbook for the Raiderettes, the cheer squad for Oakland’s NFL team. The advice contained therein is so condescending that, in the words of Jezebel writer Madeleine Davies, “it would really only be appropriate when attempting to advise an alien from outer space on how to act human.” The handbook tackles such mystifying practices as handshakes (“an American custom that should be extended immediately upon introduction”), eating food in the presence of other people (“If you need to leave the table…don’t forget to say, ‘Excuse me’”), and how to how to interact with the opposite sex (“Make a point to find out if a player is married…In most cases, he won’t tell you!”).
While the “advice” in the handbook is almost uniformly outdated, sexist, and demeaning, the most egregious offense comes in a section about fraternization between players and cheerleaders. Raiderettes are essentially told that it is their responsibility to ensure that they are not sexually assaulted by players, because bad publicity could result in a “ruined reputation” for the team and the cheerleaders. The handbook references a series of parties thrown by a player who was later “suspended from the team for drug use but also arrested for date rape.” The moral to be learned from this incident, the handbook concludes, is that Raiderettes at the parties “narrowly…missed having [their] photo in all the local papers and/or being assaulted [emphasis added].” The fact that the safety of the Raiderettes comes second to bad publicity is very telling of the handbook’s general tone, and the implication that all Raiders players are indiscriminate rapists is deeply unfair and insulting to both the men and women associated with the Raiders franchise.
The women of the Raiderettes deserve better than this. Tell the Raiders to update their handbook to reflect a policy that is neither sexist nor a promotion of rape culture.
Dear Oakland Raiders Organization,
I am writing to express my disgust over the content of the recently-leaked Raiderettes handbook. The policies contained within it are sexist, outdated, demeaning, and condescending, and I demand that the handbook be revised to convey a more positive, respectful appreciation of the women who contribute their time and talents to the Raiders.
Basic etiquette is indeed an important skill for people in the public eye. However, the “advice” contained in the handbook veers far from “helpful” territory straight into “insulting.” Do Raiderettes really need to be lectured on the importance of using a napkin when eating? Are they so socially inept that they will just stare blankly at an outstretched hand rather than shaking it? Or are they professional adult women–many of whom have partners and families–who have made careers out of public performance?
While the etiquette portions of the handbook are bafflingly condescending, the portion regarding fraternization between players and cheerleaders is downright infuriating, as it essentially puts the onus of responsibility on the Raiderettes to not “let” themselves be sexually assaulted by any players. Even in the event of an assault, your handbook makes it clear that the safety and well-being of the victim is only an afterthought; it’s the team’s reputation that really matters: “For you on the squad who have attended those parties [thrown by a player arrested for date rape], just think how narrowly you missed having your photo in all the local papers and/or being assaulted.”
The handbook is outdated and misogynistic, and it creates a poisonous work environment for women whose career already makes them a target for sexist harassment. It is time for the Raiderettes handbook to catch up with the twenty-first century. Revise the handbook immediately.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons