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How Much Do NFL Cheerleaders Make? – NFL Cheerleader Salary Revealed

When we think of the NFL, the high salaries of the players often come to mind. However, many people wonder about the earnings of NFL cheerleaders, who are also a visible part of the game day experience. Despite their prominent role, NFL cheerleaders earn significantly less than the players. This article explores the compensation of NFL cheerleaders and the reasons behind their low pay.

The Reality of NFL Cheerleader Salaries

Although the NFL is worth an estimated $163 billion, the salaries of NFL cheerleaders are surprisingly low. It is nearly impossible to make a living solely from cheerleading in the NFL. Each team’s pay rates differ, but some teams pay barely above minimum wage, which is disappointing considering the time and effort cheerleaders dedicate to their roles.

As of 2023, seven NFL teams do not have a cheerleader squad. Most NFL cheerleaders have full-time jobs outside of cheerleading, making it more of a side job despite its demanding nature. Some teams even require cheerleaders to have a primary income source and cover their own costs for personal grooming and fitness.

A 2021 survey by former NFL cheerleader Mhkeeba Pate found that cheerleaders earned between $12-20 per hour for games and $10-16 per hour for practices. In 2014, The Atlantic reported that most NFL cheerleaders were paid $75 to $150 per game. Despite these low figures, there are a few teams where cheerleaders earn significantly more.

For instance, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, known as America’s Sweethearts, reportedly earn $75,000 per year. Some cheerleaders earn more for public appearances, with one team paying $500 per game, $30 per hour for practice, and $150 per hour for appearances.

Why Are Cheerleaders Paid So Little?

NFL cheerleaders are often considered non-essential, part-time employees, similar to many freelance roles. This perception leads to lower wages and the expectation that they should be grateful for the opportunity due to high demand for these positions. As independent contractors, cheerleaders can work for other sports organizations or private events to supplement their income.

NFL Cheerleader Lawsuits

Several lawsuits have been filed against NFL teams regarding cheerleader wages and working conditions. Between 2012 and 2020, at least ten NFL teams faced legal action over wage theft, harassment, unsafe working conditions, and discrimination.

The Buffalo Jills

In 2012, a member of the Buffalo Jills, the cheerleading squad for the Buffalo Bills, reported being paid only $105 for 840 hours of work. The Jills sued the Bills and Citadel Radio in 2014, leading to the squad’s disbandment. In 2022, the Jills were awarded $7.5 million in a settlement.

The Raiderettes

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated the Raiderettes, the cheerleading squad for the then-Oakland Raiders. They were paid $1,250 per year, below the state minimum wage. A class-action lawsuit resulted in a $1.25 million settlement for 90 former cheerleaders.

America’s Sweethearts

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders faced a lawsuit in 2017 when former cheerleader Erica Wilkins claimed she earned just $4,700 in her first year. The case was settled, leading to a pay increase for the cheerleaders.

Washington Commanders Cheerleaders

In 2018, a New York Times article exposed abuses by the Washington Commanders’ leadership. Cheerleaders were required to attend events with VIPs without their consent and a private video of them was shared among executives. A confidential settlement was reached in 2021.

Super Bowl Compensation for Cheerleaders

Information on whether NFL cheerleaders receive extra pay for the Super Bowl is limited. However, they are likely entitled to their regular game checks and can earn from public appearances in the weeks leading up to the game.

The Bottom Line

NFL cheerleaders play a significant role in the game day experience but earn far less than the players they cheer for. Despite the challenges and low pay, many cheerleaders continue to perform out of passion for the sport and the opportunity it provides. However, the legal actions and settlements highlight the need for better compensation and working conditions for these dedicated professionals.

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