The NFL generates over $13 billion in revenue annually, with zero signs of a slow down. Players average a take-home of around $2 million every year while coaches are averaging a $7 million salary. Heck, mascots earn $25,000 or more masquerading around the field. All things considered, there is practically no reason NFL cheerleaders should not be making a living wage for their dedication to peak physical fitness and discipline, not to mention talent.
Cheerleading at the NFL level requires far more than yelling a little “rah-rah-ree.” It requires an immense amount of time and training. So how much are those long days of training and performance worth? Follow along as we dig into how much NFL cheerleaders are really making each football season.
1. The audition fees cost anywhere from $35 to $75
Auditions are required for anyone to have a shot at becoming an NFL cheerleader, and those auditions are not free. Some teams only charge a $35 fee, but auditioning in hopes of becoming a New Orleans Saintsation costs $75. The high prices on auditions seem a tad ludicrous when you take into consideration how much each NFL team is netting every year.
Next: The rules and regulations imply cheerleaders are making bank.
2. Many teams have strict policies that cheerleaders must follow
The demands for NFL cheerleaders reach far beyond attending a handful of practices and performing at the games. Appearances within the community at nursing homes, schools, and even corporate events are required, yet attending these events does not positively impact how much NFL cheerleaders make. Furthermore, many squads demand that cheerleaders not ever be in the presence of an active player without approval.
Next: The hourly rate may stun you.
3. Some cheerleaders earn only $2 to $3 per hour
Despite the long hours, professional cheerleading for the NFL is not intended to be a full-time job. Yet, all the signs indicate otherwise, as practices are an all-day affair. You see, most cheerleaders are paid a flat fee for both public appearances and games. Not every team is transparent when it comes to exactly the work for which they are willing to pay, but more on that later. Cheer squads have become so fed up with the unequal pay, they’ve sued the NFL.
Next: Here is what that translates to on an annual basis.
4. One cheerleader claimed she only made $3,000 total
An anonymous cheerleader took to Cosmopolitan to share the realities of the job. It’s widely known that NFL cheerleaders are required to maintain the body in which they auditioned, but this cheerleader expressed that gaining just a few pounds not only got her called off a game but teased and bullied by team members and coaches. And all of that torment for what, $3,000 of pay per season? Her 2006 pay already seemed meager, but once she factored in the upkeep required — manicures, gym memberships, trainers, and makeup — she took home around $300.
Next: Cheerleaders took to the courts.
5. Before 2013, Buccaneers cheerleaders made $1,000 a year
Despite many squads just grinning and bearing the inequality, others have taken to the courts. In 2013, the Raiderettes and Buccaneers, along with two other squads, filed class-action lawsuits against the NFL teams for paltry pay. By paltry, we’re talking $1,000 for an entire season. Luckily, the courts ruled in the favor of the squads and teams paid millions in settlements. The eventual ruling required the teams to pay minimum wage for every hour worked.
Next: This popular team seems to be sidestepping the law.
6. Some teams are still vague about how much they pay
Even though many teams have faced the music and started paying their cheerleaders decently, others have managed to stay under the radar. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading audition site vaguely defines its pay by claiming, “There is a pay schedule for rehearsals, home football games, promo appearances & shows.” Which insinuates that the squad is not compensated hourly or for practices.
Next: Some squads are getting paid better, but it is far from equal.
7. But most are now required to pay minimum wage
While squads like the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saintsations seem to be dodging a labor lawsuit, others like the Buccaneers’ squad and the Raiderettes are at least paying squads a state-mandated minimum hourly rate for all of the work they do. Public appearances, practices, home games, and community events are no longer pro bono.
Next: This is how much they get paid to cheer at a game.
8. Or they pay a set amount per game or appearance
Unfortunately, the teams that have not yet faced the proper-pay-grade music will continue to compensate cheerleading squads based on a set price per game or appearance. Commonly, squad members are paid $50 to $75 for a public appearance and somewhere around $150 for performing at a home game.