Cheerleaders are a big part of the in-stadium experience at NFL games. They provide entertainment for the fans before the game and during breaks in the action. Cheerleaders have been part of the league for decades, and the Cowboys’ squad has become so popular that it even has its own reality show about making the team.
Despite the popularity of cheerleaders among NFL fans, not every team has them. Six franchises chose to forgo this element, and all of those teams have one thing in common.
The history of cheerleaders in the NFL
But the profession was changed forever when the Cowboys introduced their cheerleaders. The members of the Dallas crew wore revealing outfits and came up with complex dance routines that helped increase the popularity of cheerleading across the NFL.
With the popularity of the Cowboys’ cheerleaders, most of the other teams in the league followed suit and created their squads in the mold of the Cowboys’. Over time, the role of the cheerleaders has increased, and they now participate in off-the-field events to heighten a team’s public image.
The teams without cheerleaders
Of the 32 NFL teams, six don’t have their own cheerleaders. When you look at the list — the Bears, Bills, Browns, Giants, Steelers, and Packers — you’ll notice a similarity between those franchises. They are all located in cold-weather cities and play in open-air stadiums.
With the regular season extending into early January and the playoffs through the rest of the month, it isn’t feasible to have cheerleaders in cold weather because of their skimpy outfits.
But that’s not the only reason those teams don’t have cheerleaders. USA Today reports that Giants co-owner John Mara has said his team has philosophical issues with “sending scantily clad women out on the field” to entertain their fans.
The Bills used to have cheerleaders, but got rid of the squad after several cheerleaders sued the team. The Bills now have a drumline entertain the crowd during games.
The Bears used to have cheerleaders, but when former owner George Halas died in 1983 his daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey, took over ownership and did not renew the squad’s contract when it expired after Super Bowl XX.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers stopped using their own cheerleaders after 1977, but they now use a collegiate squad to pump up fans.
The Steelers were among the first teams to have cheerleaders in the 1960s, but the group disbanded in 1969 and the team has not started another squad.
Cleveland Browns and New York Giants
The Browns and Giants are the only teams that have never had cheerleaders, but both have unofficial spirit squads supporting the teams.
Controversies surrounding NLF cheerleaders
The treatment of cheerleaders has come under fire, especially in recent years with the #MeToo movement. When picking cheerleaders, some teams use “personal appearance” and “figure” to judge the women trying out. Many people consider this sexist and that it illustrates that women are mainly chosen for their looks.
Then there’s the fact that the cheerleaders don’t get paid much, especially considering what the teams are worth. Several teams have even faced lawsuits for the low pay.
A former 49ers cheerleader sued the team, claiming that she was paid just $1,250 per season — which equated to about $2.75 an hour, well below the minimum wage. In 2006, another cheerleader wrote about her pay in Cosmopolitan. She revealed her earnings were $3,000 for the season, but after deducting her work-related expenses it came out to just $300.