HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Paige and Jackie. Proud to have represented Houston, but deeply disturbed by how they and many of their cheerleading teammates were treated by the Texans.
"I want to open eyes for Houstonians to see that it's not all glitter and gold in our cheer program," said Paige.
"I absolutely felt like we were being exploited. I felt like we were being used," said Jackie.
In a federal lawsuit, the two former Texans cheerleaders, who worked for $7.25 an hour, allege they were forced to labor far more than 30 hours a week -- uncompensated overtime which they call wage theft.
"She would say, 'You know girls, it's a part time job with full-time hours'," recalled Paige of her coach Alto Gary.
"I was thinking, well yea, that's because you want to be our pimp, you want to pimp us. That's what you are wanting," added Jackie.
In addition, Paige and Jackie allege a hostile work environment characterized by psychological and even physical abuse perpetrated by the squad's longtime coach Gary.
"She had this lady roll down her shorts duct taped her skin down underneath her shorts and asked doesn't this look so much better," said Paige.
Attorney Bruse Loyd says the aim of the lawsuit is progress, not profit.
"My clients would like them (the Texans) to lead the NFL in change on these cheerleading squads, because it’s become apparent, its systemic, within the National Football League that there are problems within these cheerleading squads, serious problems," said Loyd.
Paige says while this legal fight may focus on the past, it's really about the future.
"I'm doing this for the little girls that tell me I want to be just like you," said Paige.
It's a sentiment that's hardly unanimous among those who've worn the red, white and blue. Cheer squad veterans, past and present, are rallying around their coach and calling this controversial legal action an opportunistic money grab.
"Nobody is forcing you to stay on the team. If you are not happy, you can easily exit," said Erika Arevalo, a Texans cheerleader from 2004-2007.
"Is being on the team a commitment? Absolutely. Those are things you know about upfront and I don't want the organization to be tarnished by a few girls who didn't make it back and they are upset about it," added Arevalo who described "Coach Alto" as tough, but widely respected.