NBA dancers fire up the sidelines, but some of them say there’s a dark side to the job.
“We’ve worked our entire lives to have this dream job,” said Chenelle Young, who spent three seasons dancing for the Utah Jazz. “And then we get there and we’re treated like — crap.”
Young, who said her overall experience with the NBA was positive, added the dancers attended a weigh-in once a month in order to stay with the team.
“I know that some women went into that room and came out of that room feeling really beaten emotionally,” Young added.
Young is not alone. Her story and others are featured in a recent Yahoo report that details the alleged culture of brainwashing, poor pay and eating disorders that exists among NBA dancers.
Ana Ogbueze, who danced with the Charlotte Hornets for four years, said there was a lot of pressure to be fit and uniform-ready.
“It was in the spirit of, ‘We don’t want the general public to start to criticize what you look like,'” Ogbueze said.
Lauren Herington danced with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013 and said that her coach would ask her to perform a “jiggle test” in front of the team.
“Our coach would come and test to see if there was any ‘jiggle movement’ around our stomach or around our thighs, and if she thought that it jiggled too much or that we just looked too fluffy to be in our costumes, then we would be benched for games,” Herington said.
The Bucks organization said it takes these allegations seriously but found no evidence a “jiggle test” was ever conducted.
Making matters worse, some of the dancers say, is that they were making less than minimum wage.
“If you’re requiring dancers to be somewhere six hours or you’re requiring dancers to be at a game for 10 hours, they shouldn’t be getting paid $50,” Young said.
“That doesn’t even cover gas,” she added.
Herington ended up suing in 2015 as part of a class-action lawsuit against the Bucks. The organization strongly denied the allegations, but ultimately settled the lawsuit including 40 dancers for $250,000.
The NBA said in a statement previously that “team dancers are valued members of the NBA family.”
“We work with our teams to ensure that they comply with applicable wage and working condition laws for all employees, and they’re provided safe, respectful and welcoming workplaces,” the statement added.
The Utah Jazz said its dancers are valued employees, adding there have been issues in the past that have been addressed.