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NBA Dancers Detail Issues Within Industry Like Low Pay, Eating Disorders, Weight Restrictions

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 12/11/2018 Khadrice Rollins
a group of baseball players standing on top of a basketball game: NBA dancers discuss eating disorders, low wages © Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images NBA dancers discuss eating disorders, low wages

In a story from Abby Haglage of Yahoo Lifestyle, members of NBA dance teams spoke about some of the various issues within their profession related to body image and payment.

Women talked about how some teams monitor the weight of the dancers and have penalties such as benching the performers when dancers weighed more than their "goal weight." They also said some teams would openly tell dancers to immediately lose weight upon making the team.

Additionally, they mentioned how this fixation over maintaining a certain weight caused women to develop eating disorders or take laxatives so they could "fit into this image." A former member of the Mavericks dance team mentioned a time when a rookie on the squad found another dancer passed out in the bathroom because she had been throwing up the food she ate.

The Mavericks were the only one of the 14 clubs that commented on the problems dancers mentioned to Yahoo Lifestyle regarding strict body standards.

"A previous version of our contract contained a single clause that mentioned a weight policy," the statement the Mavericks provided Yahoo said. "This policy provided that dancers were to remain within five pounds of their determined performance weight. Image concepts like this were prevalent and previously accepted in the industry; however, not anymore at the Mavs."

Dancers also discussed how teams occasionally didn't pay them for some appearances at charity event. Some were paid as little as $15 for practices and $25 for games and how they are required to foot the bill when it came to upholding certain beauty standards even though they were not making a living wage.

Of the 15 women interviewed for the story, all but one said they needed to work a second job in order to have enough money to survive, and most said they were working two other jobs. Some described their pay as "gas money" and they also noted how they were told the job is part-time pay but a full-time commitment.

They mentioned how the money they had to put into paying for their hair, manicures, tans and other beauty treatments would leave some without enough money to afford groceries.

"Was it enough to make ends meet? Not even close," former Suns dancers Madison Murray told Yahoo. "That was one of the hardest parts. If girls were doing OK, it was because their parents were funding them. I was self-funding, so I had three jobs. I was getting up at 4 a.m. and working until 11:30 p.m."

Not all of the women had issues on their teams with weight guidelines though, and some said the pay was good enough because of the exposure they got and how they could leverage this opportunity to others.

However, former Bucks dancer Lauren Herington went as far as to sue the team back in 2015 because of some of these problems. The lawsuit alleges that after paying for beauty routines, dancers were making about $3 or $4 an hour. Herington noted how she was "dehydrating and starving" herself to fit into her uniform and was also working as a waitress to pay her bills.

The team "strongly denied" the claims in the suit, but agreed to settle and paid $250,000 to about 40 dancers for lost wages.

RELATED VIDEO: Former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Sues Team

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