The director for the "Buffalo Jills" says the Buffalo Bills have tried to distance themselves from their cheerleaders in light of a lawsuit last month that resulted in the Jills suspending all activities.
"It has also been incredibly disappointing to see the complete lack of accountability on the part of the Buffalo Bills organization as it relates to this complaint," Stephanie Mateczun said in a statement released Wednesday by her attorney. "The Buffalo Bills own the trademark for the Jills; they control the field and everything that happens on that field, from the uniforms the cheerleaders wear to the dances they perform.
"Yet the organization appears content to attempt to wash their hands of any connection to their own cheerleading squad."
The Bills issued a statement Wednesday that read: "We are confident in our position in this matter and look forward to presenting our defense to any allegations as part of the legal process."
Mateczun, president of Stejon Productions Corp., which manages the Jills, was named in a lawsuit filed by five former cheerleaders who claim they were underpaid and mistreated. Two days after the lawsuit was filed, the Jills suspended operations and may not be on the Bills' sideline this season.
"It was only after serious and thoughtful consideration, consultation with my attorneys, and with the best interest of the women who are members of the squad in mind, that the decision was made to suspend all activities for the Jills until this legal matter can be resolved," Mateczun said in the statement.
"The Bills refuse to operate the Jills in the same fashion as the 25 other NFL teams that have cheerleading squads do," Mateczun's attorney, Dennis C. Vacco, said in a separate statement. "Unfortunately, the manner in which the Bills have handled this issue has left Stejon with no other option. The cheerleading squad exists for the benefit of the Bills, but without their support, the Jills cannot continue to operate."
Frank Dolce, the attorney for the five cheerleaders suing Mateczun, previously questioned the decision to suspend the current squad's activities.
"If they cease operations, they will blame the lawsuit for the destruction of the Jills, when that was not intended at all," Dolce said last month. "We love the Bills. We love the Jills. We do not love the travesty of its management that has occurred over the last few years."
The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court, says the cheerleaders worked hundreds of hours for free at games and were subjected to groping and sexual comments at mandatory public appearances. One said they had to take a "jiggle test" so their boss could see how firm their bodies were.
The former cheerleaders also allege that the Jills are wrongly classified as independent contractors and are subjected to policies that violate the state's $8 per hour minimum wage law and other workplace rules.
The civil action, which seeks unspecified back pay and legal fees, names Stejon Productions Corp., which assumed management of the Jills in 2011, along with former manager Citadel Communications Co., and the team.
"While much has been said about how the Jills were compensated, there was an extensive list of benefits given to the members of the squad that included free surgical procedures, free gym memberships, free tanning memberships, and free tickets and parking to all Buffalo Bills home games," Vacco said Wednesday in the statement.
The lawsuit is the fourth filed this year against an NFL team by its cheerleaders. A former New York Jets cheerleader filed a wage-theft lawsuit against the team Tuesday, and the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals also have pending wage battles.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.