Cheerleaders don’t exactly jump to the front of mind when you think pity party. Thanks in part to TV and Hollywood clichés, being a cheerleader for the football team was one of the most sought-after positions in high school. And when some of those perfectly proportioned, bubbly girls went on to fulfill their dreams as cheerleaders for the NFL, their lives were only set to get more glamorous…or so we all thought.
The truth is, NFL cheerleaders are living off meager wages, paying a ridiculous amount so that their hair and bodies look glamorous and dealing with rules that are both appalling and laughable. These issues came to light following lawsuits from former cheerleaders of three separate cheerleading teams alleging employment infringements such as minimum wage violations, intrusive and belittling conditions and outrageous expectations in regards to the women’s hygiene and appearance etiquette. The Ben-Gals (Cincinnati Bengals) and Raiderettes (Oakland Raiders) filed lawsuits first and the Buffalo Jills (Buffalo Bills) were close behind.
The rulebooks for the Buffalo Jills and Raiderettes surfaced a while back, and the guidelines are shocking. They don’t just pertain to the girls’ professional appearances, but their private lives as well, including how they should wash themselves and the proper way to eat their pasta.
A quick glance through the rulebooks (The Jill’s is 12-pages long) and it’s not hard to see why the girls have their Spanx in a bunch. Below, 15 of the most shocking rules professional cheerleaders have to follow.
14 Menstruation Control
Rule: “When menstruating, use a product that is right for your menstrual flow. A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products should be changed at least every 4 hrs. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.”
Not only does the rule tell the women how they should be wearing menstruating products during games, it also tells them how they should wear them at night, neither of which are anyone’s business. Every woman is different, so this rule is pretty ridiculous. Some may need to change their product every four hours, some may need to change it every eight hours. Telling a woman how to care for something so personal and individual is beyond anyone else’s right.
13 Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Rule: “Never apply make up or fuss with hair in front of people. If it's absolutely necessary you re-apply /freshen up, go to the ladies room and do not hang out and talk while there. Beware! Other women will judge you in there too!”
This rule is creating an extremely negative and belittling mind space for the cheerleaders. It’s re-enforcing the idea that if anything is wrong with their appearance, others will be quick to judge them. God forbid someone see one of them touching up their lipstick at the dinner table!!!
12 Tan, Tan, Tan Away
Rule: “All fair-skinned cheerleaders must have a warm skin colour for every gameday. This is provided through tanning and/or spray tanning.”
In another attempt to make the cheerleading team look like clones of each other, having tanned skin is one of the foremost rules. Appearance seems to be everything, with health and safety taking a back seat. Tanning beds are a leading cause of skin cancer and although the rulebook includes the option of spray tanning, tanning beds are still implied, which means the girls’ money and health going down the toilet.
11 Don’t Expect Minimum Wage
Before the disgruntled cheerleaders came forward, The Raiderettes were reportedly earning less than $5 an hour, which is much below the minimum wage of California. They aren’t paid for rehearsals and mandatory functions and the measly wage means they made just over $1,000…a year. This is especially shocking when you recognize that they're working for a billion-dollar industry. Critics say they should be happy to have such a glamorous job, but the fact that they didn't even hit minimum wage and aren’t paid for rehearsals is truly shocking. They are being exploited and without a side job to keep them afloat, it’s a wonder how these women survive. Since the lawsuit, California has implemented a bill that guarantees cheerleaders receive at least minimum wage for their work.
10 Avoid These Topics
Rule: “Topics to avoid in conversation at appearances – Politics, Religion, Sexual references, Talking about "last night", Too personal of an inquiry, Don't try to talk about your personal life: job, boyfriends, what you're doing later, etc., Inappropriate jokes, Strong opinions, Gossip, Saying "I" or "me" too often.”
So basically, just sit there and look pretty. No really, talking about “last night” is probably a no-no at any professional function, but this list is out of hand. They are trying to control everything the cheerleaders say and do, basically treating them like glamified robots. They’re taking away their right to speak about the topics they want to on their own time.
9 Stay Thin or Sit This One Out
Rule: “If you gain five pounds, or appear “too soft”, you won’t get paid and you’ll be spending the game inside the locker room.”
This rule can lead to cheerleaders living unhealthy lifestyles and making unhealthy decisions about what they do (and do not) eat. Having such strict weight regulations means these women will likely be focusing an extreme amount of attention on their bodies, seeing them in a negative way instead of a positive light. To take away their pay for something so shallow is sad and disturbing.
8 Beware of the Loofa
Rule: “Do not use loofas or sponges. They hold TONS of germs! Throw them away now!”
It’s not enough that the rules tell the girls how to appear and handle themselves professionally, they also tell them how to clean themselves. Sure, it may be true that loofas hold germs, but a woman’s hygiene isn’t for anyone else to demand. As long as she’s clean, it really doesn’t matter how she gets that way.
Rule: “Keep toe nails tightly trimmed & clean. PEDICURES!”
The fact that the rulebook requires something as luxurious (and expensive) as pedicures is pretty shocking. Also, do you even see their feet while they perform? Nope. It’s just another way for the team to dictate control over their personal lives and have the women scared to get in trouble.
6 Call in The Glam Squad
Rule: “Hair must be worn in a glamour style with no clips or tie backs. A full curled or slightly bent, free-flowing style is required. Short hair must be worn full and fabulous! Hot rollers work great for long hair. After curling, hair should be brushed an/or fluffed. No ringlets.”
Sure, the cheerleaders look amazing, but look at all the pressure that is put on them to get there. I cant even imagine how long it takes them to get ready for a game or an appearance.
5 Order’s Up
Rule: “Avoid ordering food that may be difficult to manage such as certain finger foods or meat with small bones.”
Why can’t they just eat whatever they want to eat? I’m sure they don’t want to look messy, either, so why not just trust that they’ll order something they can “handle”? The rules are so limiting that the cheerleaders have to be watching and thinking about every single step they take. They have to be thinking about what they can and can’t do every single second, and it’s extremely belittling.
4 Avoid Spots
Rule: “Proper skin care must be maintained by all cheerleaders.”
If every woman could have perfect skin they would. The “spots” on their faces are not because they are dirty or following improper skin care regimes, it’s because they are struggling with skin problems that are beyond their control. This rule suggests that women with bad skin are not clean, which is simply untrue and most likely stressful for the girls who are dealing with skin issues.
3 Maintain Your Roots
Rule: “Have your colour-treated hair maintained, so that it is done at least two weeks prior to every home game.”
Another extremely expensive ritual for women who are making $5 an hour. How are they suppose to maintain their roots to these standards when they get paid so little in the first place? Plus, the emphasis on perfectly-done everything is completely Barbie-esque.
2 Pasta Manners
Rule: “If served pasta, never cut it to eat. Twirl a small portion on your fork with the assistance of the spoon.”
Condescending rules like this one take cheerleaders back to their youth, when they were around two or three years old and their mothers were teaching them how to eat food. How dare the teams dictate how they eat their pasta. It’s such a minute detail and its focus only portrays the intrusiveness of the set rules.
1 No Perfume
Rule: “Do not spray perfume on right before going into an appearance. Too strong!”
Talk about controlling. For many women, perfume is a part of their essence. They have their beloved scent that people come to know them by and that they love to show off. The average woman doesn’t douse herself in overpowering perfume, they know how to properly spray. So how about just leaving them to it.