Hello SOTGC Community,
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; You’re lucky to have a job or there are so many others who would gladly take your place for less money. While those statements may be true it doesn’t justify or validate the challenges that someone might be going through.
As the debate continues about paying workers a minimum wage there are many jobs that fall into this category but one you might not think about is a professional sports cheerleader. Many cheerleaders have full-time jobs on top of being a cheerleader because they don’t earn enough to survive.
When watching a game, talking about salaries or simply impressing your colleagues with your worldly sports knowledge here are some data points to drop into the conversation about the challenges of being an NFL cheerleader.
- In the NFL (National Football League), where a rookie minimum salary is $435,000, cheerleaders make on average $9 an hour or about $100-150 per game. (For reference concession stand workers make $10-14/hour). Beyond the games there are unpaid obligations for the women to attend such as rehearsals and charitable events. Many are required to dry clean their own uniforms and maintain a certain look (think hair color, make up, no weight gain) with fear that they can be benched without pay if any facet of the contract is violated. Some team’s conduct a “jiggle tests” so their cheer coach can assess the firmness of their bodies.
- Many cheerleaders have a flexible full-time job that allows them to maintain the vigorous schedule during the season. Careers include teachers, nurses or full-time students. The women can make additional money from attending paid appearances sometimes upwards of $50/hour.
- Coming forward in such a high profile job in a glamorous business is a challenge. An Oakland Raiders cheerleader known as Lacy T., finally stood up to the unreasonable wages (they were making an equivalent to $5/hour) and sued the team. She lost friendships but she won the battle for her squad and started the dialogue about the unfair wages. Many team are now paying their cheerleaders more in line with their state’s minimum wage, including the Raiders who upped the hourly rate to $9/hr (Jan 2015).
- The cheerleaders are told they are lucky to be there and nothing substantiates that feeling like the hundreds of women who show up every year to try out for a spot on the squad. Despite the low pay, they say it’s not it’s not about the money but the prestige, love of the sport and dancing. Being a cheerleader can lead to exposure for new job opportunities and great connections to further their futures. Mierya Mayor knows all about that. She cheered for the Miami Dolphins, earned her Ph.D in anthropology and became a global correspondent for National Geographic. She is known as the “female Indiana Jones.”
We want you to be sports savvy. For tips on how to work these points into conversation read our guide to talking sports in the office. Sign up for our free triweekly email publication, The Rundown, to receive the breakdown of the trending topics in sports in an easy to understand and fun way.