There are thousands and thousands of fans who enjoy the spectacle of an NFL game. It is truly an experience like no other. One thing that makes NFL games stand out from the other sports are the often-elaborate half-time shows and a big part of these shows are the appearances of the NFL cheerleaders, who come out to perform a different routine. For many, their cheerleading routine is a very popular component of an NFL game.
Cheerleaders might be eye candy to the (mostly) males who attend football games, but this should not ever change the fact that they are humans. Simply, they are people, not objects.
Unfortunately, being a cheerleader in the NFL is not all it’s cracked up to be. They are constantly looked down on, severely criticized, humiliated in demeaning ways, and forced to comply with sexist expectations. In many ways, the cheerleaders are treated as significantly lesser and inferior to other employees involved in the NFL. Despite their hard work, efforts, and the excitement they bring to an NFL game, they are sometimes harshly treated and severely underpaid.
Working for an NFL team is not as awesome as some people might expect and former cheerleaders can attest to that. Despite the happiness and enthusiasm the cheerleaders exude, everything is not what it seems. This article will uncover fifteen secrets that the NFL probably does not want you to know about their cheerleaders and will show you that the cheerleaders have the WORST job in the NFL.
15 Security Guard Goes Too Far
First and foremost, NFL cheerleaders are performers. They are not strippers, they are there to perform and entertain the crowd. While it is perfectly fine for people to enjoy watching the cheerleaders perform, one particular security guard took his enjoyment way too far.
A security guard was caught on camera apparently pleasuring himself to the then San Diego Chargers cheerleaders during a December 2016 game. On the tape, the unnamed security guard was seen with his hand in his pocket, seemingly fondling himself. This was obviously disrespectful behaviour, as the cheerleaders aren't there to give fans and employees an opportunity to pleasure themselves. The security guard was fired, lost his license, was sentenced to three years of probation and had to undergo counselling.
14 Fraternization Prohibited
In 2014, a handbook given to the Oakland Raiders’ dancers was published in the Los Angeles Times. It apparently stated, “Make a point to find out if a player is married…In most cases, he won’t tell you.” It seems like the club places the blame on the cheerleaders for getting involved with a married player, rather than the actual player. To make matters worse, the guide also appeared to protect the NFL players at the expense of the cheerleaders. The guide seemingly alluded to a former NFL player who was accused of assaulting a Raiders cheerleader at a Halloween party. In reference to this incident, the guide stated, “For you on the squad who have attended those parties, just think how narrowly you missed having your photo in all the local papers and/or being assaulted.” This comes across as victim blaming and is certainly not a good look for the NFL or the Oakland Raiders.
13 Rejecting Hugs From Family
A former Buffalo Bills cheerleader during 2012-2013 revealed that they were told they had to reject hugs from their family and friends. One other cheerleader even shared how her father had come to watch the game and wanted to give his daughter a hug. Since hugging her father on the job would be considered improper behaviour, she sadly had to push him away and tell him he couldn’t her since she was working. It is understandable that this policy exists so to keep the cheerleaders safe so that other fans don’t get the wrong idea and become too handsy with the cheerleaders. However, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with giving a quick hug to a family member. It is really strange that she was forced to turn down a hug from her own father because of this policy. It is also a shame that this policy exists so that other fans do not get too handsy with the cheerleader and make them uncomfortable. The male fans should be able to respect boundaries and know to restrain themselves.
12 Constant Negative Feedback
We will cover weight and appearance expectations later in this list, but several cheerleaders complained of constant negative feedback from their coaches. The negative feedback almost always involves criticisms of their weight and physical appearance/beauty. This persistent negative feedback weighs heavily on the cheerleaders, just as it would on most people. Some former cheerleaders have said that this negativity often resulted in burnout and created a toxic environment amongst the cheerleaders. It is really quite sad that the cheerleaders have to put on a happy face while performing, though they are really sad and feeling burnt out on the inside because of the criticism.
One cheerleader painfully revealed that the persistent negativity and strict rules destroyed her self-esteem and resulted in behavioural changes. Her friends and parents became concerned about how cheerleading sapped all the happiness out of her. This should not be terribly surprising since the persistent nature of the criticisms would negatively affect the psychological wellbeing of even the most resilient women.
11 Social Media Restrictions
Cheerleaders are not able to do anything that would mean identifying them as a cheerleader. They also are not able to post anything that the team arbitrarily considers to be inappropriate. This would include things like publishing photos of their uniform or photos of the cheerleader out with friends. How do they enforce this? All NFL cheerleaders are required to add the director of social media on each of their social media accounts so that they have complete ability to closely monitor each cheerleader’s activity.
To make matters a million times worse, some teams resort to extreme embarrassment and shaming. If the team feels as though a member has an “inappropriate” social media picture that does not live up to their standards, they will post the picture in front of all other cheerleaders. They make a statement out of embarrassing and shaming you so that the other women know what not to do.
10 Insane Appearance Expectations
The strict cheerleading contract requires cheerleaders to look “impeccable” and basically perfect at all times. While it is absurd to have the team control how you look when you are just doing normal activities (such as grocery shopping), these contracts certainly come across as if their employers have full control. According to a cheerleader, weight, hair colour, hairstyle, length, and tanning requirements are some of the things that are strictly monitored by the teams.
On top of all this, the cheerleaders actually had to seek permission before changing their physical appearance. In other words, the coaches had full control over how the women looked. This is not an especially good look for the NFL in this day and age. Women, or anyone for that matter, should not be told what they can and cannot do with their bodies. While it is understandable that the league has expectations for how their cheerleaders look, as long as they still look presentable, what is the huge deal?
9 Strict Weight Requirements
In addition to the strict appearance expectations, cheerleaders also have very strict weight requirements. A former cheerleader revealed that the supposed “physical fitness standards” required her to weigh a maximum of 122 pounds. She had not weighed that little since high school and was benched for weighing in at 127 pounds! It becomes worse when she, and other cheerleaders, would not eat or drink because they were scared that a weight gain would result in them being benched.
This is particularly troubling since this could lead to the cheerleaders developing eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. Forcing the cheerleaders to maintain an expected weight is shameful on the part of the teams. Serious health issues and complications could arise because of these unhealthy weight expectations. What are these teams thinking?
8 The Jiggle Test
NFL cheerleaders constantly have to go through a physique evaluation by their coaches. Most coaches are female, but there have been rare occurrences where males helped critique the team's bodies. The cheerleaders stand in rows in front of a coach with a clipboard who reviews their bodies. During this evaluation, the coaches watched as the women did jumping jacks. They looked to see which parts of their bodies were jiggling – “The Jiggle Test”. It became more humiliating when the women received an email indicating which parts of your body weren’t field ready, based on this test. It was alright, preferred even, if the women’s breasts and rear jiggled, but not acceptable if anywhere else jiggled. This is probably something the NFL would not want revealed, especially with all of the other negative publicity they've been receiving over the last couple of years.
7 Degrading Charity Appearance
A lot of sports teams perform a lot of charity work and the NFL teams are no different. You may frequently hear about the charitable work that the NFL stars do, but the cheerleaders do just as much charity work as them. The main differences are that they don’t get as much attention and the cheerleaders also are forced to participate in degrading and sexist ways.
One former cheerleader complained that she, and some other cheerleaders, were forced to sit on guys laps as they rode on a golf cart. Four guys were in a golf cart with four seats and the cheerleaders basically had to sit on their laps for all their rides. Many cheerleaders understandably would feel very uncomfortable doing this, especially since they are also required to wear tight, revealing outfits.
6 Must Buy And Sell Calendars
On top of going through extensive rehearsals and performing in front of thousands, cheerleaders also have to do extensive promotional work. Cheerleaders for sone NFL teams are required to purchase at least 100 copies of the annual swimsuit calendar – out of their own pockets! Cheerleaders had to purchase the calendars for $12 each, and then resell them for $15 each. Assuming the cheerleader sells all 100 calendars, this would leave them with a profit of only $300 ($1,200 to buy 100 versus $1,500 in sales). It is one thing to have the cheerleaders sell the calendars, but it is another to force them to buy 100 calendars and only make such a marginal profit of $3 per calendar. These cheerleaders bring in money to the football teams and should be rewarded more considerably and fairly. These women would probably make more in tips working elsewhere.
5 Lack Of Reimbursement For Expenses
In most jobs, if you incur a work-related cost or purchase you get reimbursed. You usually submit your receipt to your employer and they eventually reimburse you for your cost. This does not happen with NFL cheerleaders. Not only do they not get paid well, they also are not reimbursed for anything. Cheerleaders must pay for their own uniforms as well as anything considered “bodily maintenance.” This presumably means approved haircuts, gym fees, tanning sessions, nail stylists, and so on. It is insane that NFL teams make millions of dollars and provide top-notch services to the players and coaches, but absolutely none of this trickles down to the cheerleaders who perform tirelessly at the sidelines each game. If the teams refuse to reimburse the cheerleaders for their work expenses, one would think they would pay the cheerleaders more to compensate for this. Apparently the league doesn’t feel that is necessary.
It is highly unlikely that Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or any other NFL player has to pay for their jerseys.
4 Strict Behaviour Standards
Apart from looking good, all cheerleaders were basically expected to act like perfect angels at all times. They all have to follow a very strict code of conduct which one cheerleader described as requiring them to live like nuns. It stripped them of a lot of the fun that many young women enjoy. If they wanted to go out drinking with some friends? Not allowed. Chewing gum? That’s also a violation. There is pretty much no chance for the cheerleaders to ever have any fun or go party, even if they are not working. While it is reasonable for them to be expected to stay out of trouble, even a minor speeding ticket is not tolerated. The cheerleaders are expected to basically be perfect angels, whereas the male NFL players can get away with a lot of things.
3 Terrible Pay
One cheerleader told Cosmopolitan that her total earnings for the 2016 cheerleading season was $3,000. As we already covered, there are certain expenses that cheerleaders must pay out of their own pocket. This consequently dropped her total earnings for that season to a mere $300. That seems like a lot of hard work and effort over the course of an NFL season for very little pay. This minimal pay, along with the terrible pay from the calendars, does not make cheerleading very profitable or worthwhile for these women. For all of the hard work and effort they are required to put into these jobs, these cheerleaders all deserve much more pay. This just goes to show that these women are not treated as being as important by the NFL since they are not paid in such a way that is just.
2 Demeaning Auctions
A lot of charity events feature auctions because they are a very popular and successful way to raise money for any given cause. Most auctions typically involve goods that were donated while some involve services for the community. Unfortunately, the auctions NFL cheerleaders are required to participate in are demeaning, degrading, and inappropriate.
At these auctions, the women are auctioned off to men. In some instances, they were required to sit on his lap as we briefly mentioned earlier. Women are not something that should be auctioned off – they are people, not objects.
Despite not being as famous and popular as the NFL stars, the cheerleaders still frequently get recognized in their communities. It can become particularly awkward for the women if they attract unwanted attention from males. Some cheerleaders have also unfortunately been unable to live regular lives without experiencing stereotypes or rash judgements. Vanessa Sardi, former New Orleans Saints cheerleader, found this out. She tried to work at a pharmacy, but found that the employees treated her like a celebrity despite her attempts to downplay it. Sardi expressed her frustration since she wanted to be known as someone who provides valuable service to others, and not just being a pretty face who also happened to be a former cheerleader.