Apparently the Legends Football League (yes, that’s what it’s really called) 2017 season is heading towards its conclusion (I’m assuming it’s 17 weeks like the NFL season, but for all I know they could be strapping on those little pads for a full 52 weeks a year) and coach Chris Michelson of the…. green….team? loses his goddamn mind, we’re talking double digit F bombs, the feared R word, just an assault on the intelligence of these scantily clad warriors, all while up 20-6 at halftime.
Let’s take a step back, I think it’s important to get a good sense of the type of atmosphere we’re *probably* dealing with when we step into both this physical and figurative arena. Let’s just briefly look at what I think many of us imagine the fanbase of America’s 5th major sport to look like:
And now that we’re up to speed and can put our prejudgments at the door of this post, let us continue. When I was first asked to write something up about this and “touch on the absurdity” of the league I thought ok, but instead I’m was going to approach it from a different direction – I am here for the lingerie, I mean Legends, Football League.
Not for the product, which I didn’t even know was still a thing, but for the fact these ladies are out here using what God gave them to stack checks. And I’m never going to knock anyone for that. Except… after a simple Google search, “lingerie football player salary,” I was shocked to find out player’s make a salary league wide of approximately a combined $0.
Actually, that’s not true and it wasn’t fair of me to say. Player’s make a salary of -$45 when you factor in the registration fee they have to pay.
$0 dollars to be exploited and take a physical (on top of what I’m sure is an unfathomable emotional) beating while wearing glorified toddler’s shoulder pads and a hockey helmet all while having your undies dangerously far up your bum.
A league that began as a pay-per-view borderline soft-core porn alternative to the Super Bowl halftime show has evolved into a 16-team collective spanning three leagues and three countries is helmed by the perfect villain and managing partner, Mitchell Mortaza.
Not a ton is known about the dictator of the league, even the very official Lingerie Football League Wiki only gives you this little taste into lingerie football’s Hugh Hefner:
Ok, so that’s no good, next up his Twitter account where he blasts his modest 2,923 followers with the general fuckery you’d expect from the millionaire ($1.5m, so barely), who isn’t afraid to let his player knows, “no one is here to watch you play football.”
Mortaza spends majority of his time online spamming followers with LFL promos, but will occasionally sneak in a way-too-old for this tank top gym snap and once and a blue moon will hit his followers with the goods:
*baaahn baaahhhn baaaaahnnn* That’s right, a crotch shot masqueraded as travel tweet. Classic.
Alternative classic aspects of Mortaza’s personality aren’t broadcasted via his Twitter feed, but are just as well-known. He is a body shaming, exploitative, manipulative and greedy pig person.
There was a time when those traits, albeit still awful, were at least tolerable by players. Back before this memo was sent out by Mortaza and player’s were still compensated for their work in 2011:
“The moment it became clear to us that the league needed a shift in culture was following this season’s Lingerie Bowl. As the confetti was coming down and the champagne was being sprayed, a player celebrating the Lingerie Bowl victory immediately turned to a league representative and asked, ‘So when are we getting our checks?’ It was at this moment, that should have been joyous and filled players with a sense of appreciation for the experience, that we realized we needed a drastic change in our policy to rid ourselves of these players.
We will eventually revert back to a compensation model. The irony will be that the players that are playing for the love of the game and the experience, will ultimately reap the benefits of national exposure, compensation and endorsements as the league builds.”
He has former college athletes, models, and everything in-between helping to produce a product in which they are rewarded with nothing, it all comes down to their love of a thing as unique as it seems to be ridiculous, lingerie football.
But, at what cost does this love get to be expressed? Mandatory practice and media obligations and the constant pressure to be thin leading to working out seven days a week outside of practice and experimenting with weight loss drugs and dangerous eating habits creates a full-time and dangerous job for these athletes.
And that danger hasn’t even considered the actual on field act yet. A sport so dangerous we constantly get “the war on football” conversations and Will Smith movies about it.
And while these ladies aren’t as fast or strong or hitting as hard as NFL players by any means, they’re still putting their bodies in harm’s way and without league provided health insurance to cover them if things go sideways. Like they did for Melissa Margulies:
How is this legal you’re probably wondering. Well, evil “genius” Mortaza restructured the league after that memo back in 2011 and designated the players as independent contractors to avoid the, you know, humane thing – the obligation to pay them.
Naturally some of the players have finally hit their breaking point in the form of multiple lawsuits, most notably one from the aforementioned former USC track athlete, Melissa Marguilies, where she alleges illegal treatment of employees by the league:
Margulies’ complaint, filed in July 2014, alleges violations of a host of California labor laws, including willful misclassification of an employee, failure to pay overtime and for all hours worked and nonreimbursement for such employment-related expenses as fake eyelashes, mouth guards, spray tans, uniform socks, makeup and cleats.
The last real publicity about this matter is that article from Law 360 from 2016. I’m not sure why things have gone so quiet, but it may be because Mortaza refuses to even recognize the lawsuit or show up to court.
This issue isn’t new, 2015 was the big year for Lingerie Football League stories, Sports Illustrated did a piece, Grantland (RIP) did a piece, VICE Sports even did two pieces, but since then the controversies surrounding the league have been nowhere to found in the news, all while the league grows and the players are still shown nothing for their labor.
You hear the uncomfortable words thrown around when discussing NBA players and the relationship with owners, and that’s all while on average they’re bringing in about $6.5m, now imagine if they were making nothing?
And no, I’m not saying these situations are the same or even close it, but the fact is players are contributing to a product and they should be compensated comparatively to the success of that product and protected against the risks they are force to take for entertainment.
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