While we all know that the players on the field are mostly millionaires, you might wonder how much an NFL cheerleader salary is while you’re watching the big game.
While NFL cheerleaders are paid far, far less than players, they’re still a very visible part of their respective teams. Here we explore how much NFL cheerleaders get paid and why the compensation is so low.
How Much Do NFL Cheerleaders Make?
Though the NFL is worth an estimated $163 billion, NFL cheerleader salaries are far from ideal. In fact, it’s almost impossible to make a living as an NFL cheerleader.
While every team’s cheerleader rates are different, some teams barely pay minimum wage, which is insulting given how much time and effort these women put into their craft.
First off, it’s important to note that, as of 2023, seven NFL teams currently do not even have an NFL cheerleader squad. The second thing, which may come as a huge shock to some, is that most NFL cheerleaders actually have a day job, making cheerleading essentially a side job that requires travel and full-time hours.
In fact, some NFL teams even require cheerleaders to have a primary source of income. Most cheerleaders are also responsible for requisite costs such as manicures, pedicures, haircuts, and gym memberships.
In 2021, a survey conducted by Mhkeeba Pate, former NFL cheerleader and host of the Pro Cheerleading Podcast, found that cheerleaders from nine of the 24 cheerleading squads made about $12-20 an hour for games and $10-16 an hour for practices.
In a 2014 article in The Atlantic, writer Olga Khazan reported that most NFL cheerleaders were being paid $75 to $150 a game. As you will see in the next section, there have been multiple lawsuits filed against NFL teams because of NFL cheerleader salary issues.
However, there are a handful of cheerleaders that are making some very good money.
America’s Sweethearts, who are the cheerleaders that represent the Dallas Cowboys, are rumored to make $75,000 a year. Pate’s survey also found that one NFL team was paying cheerleaders $500 a game, $30 an hour for practice, and $150 an hour for public appearances when they represented the team.
Oftentimes, NFL cheerleaders will make much more for public appearances than their actual cheerleading routines. Those who are classified as independent contractors will also be hired for private events.
Why Are Cheerleaders Paid So Badly?
Unfortunately, NFL cheerleaders are not determined to be vital enough to be given a full-time job.
In fact, just like when I worked as a soccer journalist for a major company, NFL cheerleaders are usually told to just be grateful and accept the low pay because there’s so much demand and so few spots to fill.
NFL cheerleaders are often considered to be independent contractors, allowing them to work for NBA teams and other sports organizations as well. They will also work private events in order to supplement their income further.
NFL Cheerleader Lawsuits
Despite their massive revenues, NFL teams have tread the line of legality being cheap with their cheerleaders. Between 2012 and 2020, at least 10 NFL teams faced lawsuits in regards to wage theft, harassment, unsafe working conditions or discrimination suits involving their NFL cheerleaders. Here are some of the most notable stories:
The Buffalo Gills
In 2012, there was an unsettling case being made against the Buffalo Bills. A member of their cheerleading squad, the Buffalo Jills, claimed she was only paid a meager $105 for 840 hours of work, which comes out to 12 ½ cents an hour. Furthermore, she also claimed that she had to pay $650 for the cheerleading uniform out of her own pocket.
In 2014, the Jills sued both the Buffalo Bills and Citidal Radio, who ran the Jills and broadcasted games in Western New York. The squad was completely disbanded two days after the lawsuit was filed and they have not returned to the sidelines since.
In 2022, a full eight years later, the members of the Jills were awarded a total of $7.5 million from all parties involved. The Jills have yet to reassemble.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor even got involved with the Raiderettes, the NFL cheerleading squad for the then-Oakland Raiders, who now play in Las Vegas.
They were sued for wage theft and unfair employment practices after it was claimed that the NFL cheerleaders were only being paid $1,250 a year, which was far below the state’s minimum wage of $8 an hour.
The Raiderettes successfully sued and 90 former NFL cheerleaders were awarded $1.25 million from a class-action lawsuit, which averages out to about $14,000 per cheerleader.
While the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad have legitimate pay now, that wasn’t always the case. They were sued in 2017 by former cheerleader Erica Wilkins, who claimed she made just $4,700 her first year.
Less than two years later, Wilkins and the Cowboys settled and Cowboys cheerleaders received an immediate pay boost.
Washington Commanders Cheerleaders
In a rather ugly abuse of power, a 2018 New York Times story revealed wrongdoings by the hierarchy of the Washington Commanders.
Back in 2013, suite holders, sponsors, and other VIPs were invited, without the cheerleaders’ consent, to watch a behind-the-scenes swimsuit calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica.
The cheerleaders were also told they must go to dinner with some of these high-rollers, all while the Commanders held onto their passports.
If that wasn’t disgusting enough, a 10-minute video of nip-slips and other invasions of privacy was reportedly passed around to the members of Commanders leadership.
In 2021, the Commanders and their cheerleading squad reached a confidential settlement, though many of the people at the top kept their jobs.
How Much do Cheerleaders Get Paid at the Super Bowl?
There’s not much information about whether or not NFL cheerleaders get any sort of extra compensation when it comes to working on the sideline during the playoffs.
There are two weeks between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl, so cheerleaders have plenty of time to perform paid appearance duty for their respective teams. In addition, they should be entitled to their regular game checks at the very least.
What NFL teams don’t have cheerleaders?
How many NFL teams have cheerleaders?
Do NFL cheerleaders have normal jobs?
What is the highest NFL cheerleader salary?
Can you be married and be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader?
How old is the youngest NFL cheerleader?
Can you be an NFL cheerleader if you have tattoos?
Can a man be a cheerleader in the NFL?
Can cheerleaders date NFL players?
- https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/nfl-cheerleaders-fail-cash-multibillion-dollar-business (PBS)
- https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-shockingly-low-salaries-of-professional-cheerleaders/283299/ (The Atlantic)
- https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/jan/26/a-womans-work-documentary-nfl-cheerleaders (The Guardian)
- https://nypost.com/2018/06/17/dallas-cowboys-cheerleader-reveals-why-shes-suing-the-team/ (New York Post)
- https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/sports/redskins-cheerleaders-nfl.html (New York Times)
- https://www.popsugar.co.uk/fitness/how-much-do-nfl-cheerleaders-make-49333369 (Popsugar)