A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem

Two brave cheerleaders take on the NFL, battling the massive, male-dominated sports league for recognition — and a raise.

NFL cheerleader
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
January 4, 2021
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund
Open Call

Yu Gu

Yu Gu is an award-winning filmmaker born in Chongqing, China, and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Yu’s short, personal documentary, A Moth in Spring premiered at Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto and traveled to over a dozen international film festivals before being distributed by HBO.


Elizabeth Ai

Elizabeth Ai (producer/writer) has over a decade of experience producing narrative, documentary, and branded content. She writes and produces for various companies such as VICE, ESPN, and National Geographic Channels for which she and her team have won a News & Documentary Emmy in 2012. She is currently co-directing and producing, In the Shadow of the Hills, Show more a longitudinal documentary tracking the lives of the indigenous Black Hmong tribes women and the effects of modernization on their culture and environment in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in Northern Vietnam. Her independent documentary and narrative projects have received support from: Sundance Institute, Berlin Talent Campus, Tribeca Film Institute, Film Independent, National Association of Latino Independent Producers, Independent Television Service, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She received her B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California, resides in Los Angeles, and geocaches in the backcountry. Show less

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The Film

The cheerleaders of the National Football League sweat through grueling drills, invest time, and money to stay in top physical condition, and revolve their lives around their sport. They work the gridiron in stadiums packed with tens of thousands of paying fans. Yet most of them earn less than minimum wage — and some as little as $5 an hour. Shining a light on this astounding inequity, A Woman’s Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem tells the story of a handful of cheerleaders — among them Oakland Raiderette Lacy and Maria of the Buffalo Jills — who decide that they and their colleagues deserve more. In high-stakes lawsuits and in the harshly divided court of public opinion, these courageous women take a stand, denouncing the NFL’s unfair labor practices and employment contracts riddled with illegal provisions. Risking their careers, Lacy and Maria call out the hypocrisy of a male-dominated sports culture that ignores their demanding feats of athleticism and sees the flesh-baring uniforms they’re required to wear as a reason to keep exploiting them.