NFL cheerleaders who cheer for the pro teams seem to have it all, but that’s not always the case. Sure, there’s no greater feeling in the world than setting a personal goal and seeing it come to life, but life as an NFL cheerleader is far from glamorous, especially after the stadium lights are turned off.
Everybody knows that NFL cheerleaders must maintain a healthy, fit and attractive appearance at all times. NFL cheerleaders also have to spend days and weeks auditioning against other females and then try to conserve energy to avoid being cut from the team. In addition, cheerleaders of at least five NFL teams (Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets) weren’t even making the minimum wage in the first place.
Drexel A. Bradshaw, a lawyer who has represented NFL cheerleaders, said: “They’re told, ‘A million girls want your job.’ Their treatment is shocking.”
According to court documents, NFL players earn an average of $1.3 million per season. Team mascots are paid between $25,000 and $65,000 per season, and some even receive retirement benefits.
Aside from the usual horror stories of being a NFL cheerleader, there are other stories beyond the stadium ranging from suffering mishaps during photo shoots to getting unwanted attention from boys and men. There are a lot of stories on the internet—both true and false—that draw copious amounts of attention from the general public. After all, the internet is a place for people to air their dirty laundry.
Here are 15 NFL cheerleader stories we hope aren’t true.
15. Buffalo Jills’ Appearances Were Sexist
Alyssa U., a former Buffalo Jills cheerleader, was one of five Jills cheerleaders who filed a lawsuit against the Buffalo Bills after allegedly being treated like a piece of meat and forced to adhere to a strict list of tests and demands that ensured they would always be local favorites among male hanger-ons.
Some of the dubious procedures told the cheerleaders to take so-called jiggle tests to determine their fitness levels in a frigid storeroom that smelled like gasoline and put up with creepy men at cheerleader calendar release parties.
Jills like Alyssa U. were initially ecstatic to join the Bills’ cheerleading squad, but they were chagrined when they found out that they were supposed to pay up to $650 for their own skimpy uniforms, attend sexist events that left them open to groping and inappropriate comments and adhere to a strict set of rules on how they should live their lives. Terrible, just terrible.
14. The Ridiculous “Beauty” Standards For Ravens Cheerleaders
Here’s a glimpse of the dark side of NFL cheerleading. The Baltimore Ravens’ cheerleaders were not only weighed, but also expected to maintain a cookie-cutter image or else they’d get benched by the team.
A tipster told Deadspin: “If you deviate from the baseline, you can/will get benched, but only if you’re a female…Males are hardly kept to any standard unless they personally care.”
A former cheerleader wrote about one of her fellow cheerleaders: After coming in lighter, she put back some of the weight throughout the year. She was benched for multiple games even though she weighed less than she did the year before. Eventually she had the backbone to tell them she was fed up with it, and quit. Believe me when I tell you, she was no where near overweight.”
13. Security Guard Caught Enjoying The View A Little Too Much
Security guards are employed by stadiums to prevent unruly fans from getting out of control and to keep those on the field safe. In general, security guards aren’t even looking at the field, but rather keeping an eye on any fans who may cause trouble. Well, this security guard allegedly got a little caught up in the action. During a cheer routine in a Chargers game, a security guard was caught pleasuring himself while “observing” the cheerleaders in action.
Cheerleaders are there to bring the spirits up of fans, not for perverts to get their fix in. Unsurprisingly, the security guard was fired and has to undergo three years of probation for his disgusting action. It’s not entirely clear how far this guard went in his action, but all we know is that it was too far.
12. Anonymous Cheerleader Had To Be On Her Best Behavior
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, an anonymous cheerleader said: “Besides looking good, I was expected to act like an angel. My contract forbade me from drinking, cussing, smoking, chewing gum, or identifying myself as a cheerleader in public. At one point, I was told that if I got another speeding ticket, I’d be fired.”
“While our code of conduct required us to act like nuns, strangers got away with groping us. These weren’t just random fans either but corporate backer types who paid big bucks for the privilege of hanging out with us.”
She added: “The biggest rule was that we weren’t allowed to fraternize with the football players. I was already friends with some of the guys from college and even had dated one for a while. He and I tried hanging out secretly, but it faded out because we were putting more work into keeping it covert than actually having a relationship.”
The rule didn’t completely keep players away from cheerleaders though. According to the cheerleader, a fellow cheerleader quit the squad to marry a player, and some girls openly admitted that they were gold diggers.
11. Sea Gals Must Agree To Three-Page List Of Rules
So the rules of being an NFL cheerleader may surprise you. Take, for example, the Sea Gals who cheer for the 2014 NFL champion Seattle Seahawks. Not all cheerleading squads issue the same rules, but the Sea Gals must follow the rules in the handbook, which discourages fraternizing, dating, cohabiting, or marrying Seahawks players, coaches, management, and even the mascot.
While the rules of each cheerleading squad may differ, it’s not cool how some squads issue different rules for the cheerleaders. It’s not only unfair, it’s also displaying the fact some people are more superior as opposed to others. And, as far as cheerleaders are concerned, they don’t seem to be as important as their male counterparts when it comes to working in the football world. That’s not fair, and everybody should be required to follow the same list of rules, so equality can be maintained in what’s supposed to be an equal workplace.
10. Raiderettes Were Punished Who Didn’t Expose Themselves On Two Piece Tuesdays
If you want to be a cheerleader in northern California, you might want to hold that thought for a minute or two.
In 2014, the Los Angeles Times released parts of the 2012 Raiderettes’ etiquette agreement. Mic obtained a comprehensive copy in which provides a disturbing overview of the strict and sexist double standards. Cheerleaders must smile on a regular basis. Why?Negative facial expressions are prohibited.
The agreement also said cheerleaders who fail to expose their belly buttons on “2 Piece Tuesdays” will face fines. In addition, it disallowed cheerleaders from fraternizing with players in order to avoid the risk of being assaulted and ruining their reputations. All these rules for an alleged salary of $3,000 per year.
9. Colin Kaepernick Isn’t The Only San Francisco 49ers’ Conspiracy
Here’s another northern California-based horror story that might actually be true, but of course, we hope it’s false.
Move over, Colin Kaepernick. Your national anthem protest isn’t the only thing that might’ve been colluded with. The San Francisco 49ers’ cheerleaders, the Gold Rush, might’ve been affected by an act of collusion as well.
Earlier this year, a former 49ers cheerleader, Kelsey K., filed a lawsuit accusing the NFL along with team owners of conspiring to suppress wages for cheerleaders. However, U.S. District Judge William Alsup tossed out the lawsuit, but gave Kelsey the opportunity to amend her lawsuit and re-file it by June 15.
“To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only ‘ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,'” Alsup told the Los Angeles Times. “The complaint must answer the basic questions of ‘who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?'”
8. Cameraman Drilled A Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleader
Here’s a viral snap that was never broadcasted on live television. You see, a cameraman drilled into a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader and took her out by truck sticking her. You can watch cell phone football, embedded in the tweet below.
— Ashley (@ashwagner13) September 17, 2017
The cameraman might’ve not noticed the Chiefs cheerleader, but still, this might’ve been the biggest hit in the Chiefs vs. Eagles game. At the end of the shocking video, you can see the cheerleader reportedly getting back up and continuing with her routine. Hopefully, she was alright and didn’t suffer any significant side effects. That being said, the cheerleader should’ve been awarded the player of the game for surviving a massive hit from a defenseless player, getting back up and continuing to do her job.
7. Buffalo Jills’ Handbook Contains Bizarre Rules
Yeah, we have to bring up the Jills again.
There are three very specific selections in the Jills’ handbook that are just really bizarre. There are rules and then there are unnecessary rules that contain too much information for the average reader. The rules for cheerleaders supposed to be hassle free instead of dictatorship-like. This is cheerleading, not politics. Let’s not breathe down the necks of cheerleaders, who are regular people like the rest of us.
Take a look at the numerical points below.
1. When trying to “capture” a small piece of food onto a utensil, it is acceptable to use another utensil for aiding it aboard. Never use your fingers.
2. Always avoid: Politics, religion, sexual references…Inappropriate jokes, strong opinions, gossip, saying “I” or “me” too often.
6. Cheerleaders Have To Buy Their Own Calendars
Yeah, it’s definitely a perk when cheerleaders receive the glorious opportunity to pose for calendar photo shoots. Those annual calendars are then sold during fundraisers and charity events.
Cheerleaders get the chance to collect the earned funds from those calendars, but here’s the drawback: they’re reportedly required to purchase the calendars out of their own pockets and keep whatever amount of cash they make after they’re recovered their personal costs. If they don’t sell all of their calendars, that’s likely going to be money they’ve lost in the fundraising process.
While not all the NFL teams push their cheerleaders to buy their sizzling hot calendars with their own money, it’s still wrong how some pro teams enforce this so-called rule. We hope this money-breaking issue fades away sometime in the near future because it’s just unbusinesslike, especially from management staffs who have the privilege to laugh their way to the bank.
5. Just A Few Franchises Have Stunt Groups
In a Reddit thread “I was a NFL cheerleader AMA!”, user ThisIsLucidity asked fellow user _lebaneseblonde_: “Have you ever experienced/witnessed any considerable falls during a performance? What happens during falls like that – does the routine continue or is it stopped typically?”
_lebaneseblonde_ responded: Only a few organizations actually have stunt groups and our organization was not one of them. Most other squads in the NFL just dance and maybe incorporate some tumbling. I only observed a team member slip and fall once during a routine (very rainy game). You just bounce back up as quickly as possible and keep going. It hurts your ego but I’ve never seen a serious injury….biggest threat is getting tackled by a player or camera man.”
4. Cheerleaders Have No Control Over Anything
The caption pretty much says it all: Cheerleaders have no control over anything.
It’s not just wage theft, but some teams dictate how cheerleaders should live their personal and professional lives. Why’s that? They often classify the ladies as independent contractors in order to exempt themselves from the minimum wage laws. They have the power to do this because the IRS says you can classify an individual as an independent contractor if you have the right to control or direct only the result of the work, but the individual controls what will be done and how it will be done.
Yet, if you take a look at the mandatory rules and contracts, you’d start to believe that these cheerleaders had control over anything. Moreover, some teams issue retrograde rules to regulate how the cheerleaders should live their lives, even going as far as how they should maintain their personal hygiene. Hopefully, this will come to an end soon.
3. Protocol For Wedding Gifts?
Marriage is supposed to be a sacred union for two people to unite, but wealthy NFL teams might govern their strict protocol when it comes to the marriages and even engagements of cheerleaders and their beaus. A rule from the Jills’ handbook, obtained by Deadspin, said: “Don’t ask for cash gifts as wedding gifts (in print), Rely on word of mouth instead.”
Sure, the rule of asking for cash gifts as wedding gifts using word of mouth pertains to general etiquette skills, but it’s still not fair for cheerleaders, who should possess the right to do (or not do) things in preparation for their weddings. It’s their wedding, not yours. Let them make their own decisions because everybody has their own way of doing things.
2. “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team” Is A Grueling Show
Country Music Television’s “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team” may seem like an appealing reality show with a ton of hot chicks, but there’s reportedly more than what meets the eye to the average viewer at home. The show focuses on Cowboys cheerleader hopefuls who endure rigorous auditions, training camps and rehearsals to become a part of the Cowboys’ cheerleading squad.
To stand a chance to be associated with America’s team, the girls have to practice five nights a week. Rehearsal starts at 7 a.m. and runs until 11 a.m., but the majority of them head over at 5:30 a.m. because they’re expected to learn 50 dances over the course of eight weeks. So they practically learn a new dance every night and have to come back the next day ready to perform.
1. Cheerleaders Don’t Take A Knee Because They Feel Like Their Voices Don’t Matter
Since free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the 49ers vs. Packers preseason game on August 26, 2016, athletes and even politicians have joined the take a knee protest, but NFL cheerleaders haven’t taken a knee yet.
In an interview with Elle.com, former cheerleaders explained why they haven’t taken a knee yet, claiming that the league isn’t interested in what they have to say. They also said that it’s not a cheerleader’s job to create controversy.
Broadcast journalist and former Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleader Michele Wright is a woman of color, but chimed in with straightforward words on the matter: “Bottom line, cheerleaders are a little fish in a big pond…Although they are of great worth and value to the football experience and their respective communities, many are undervalued. So to remain neutral, they wouldn’t take a knee.”
Wright is indeed right, but it’s terrible how cheerleaders feel like they don’t have a voice and avoid protesting altogether. Apparently, men can do things that women can’t, and that’s simply unfair. Women still haven’t received the rights they deserve, which has to end someday.
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