In theory, being a professional cheerleader for the NFL seems like the most glamorous jobs on the planet, aside from being a Reese Witherspoon or one of those travel bloggers. The cheerleader uniforms are bomb. You get to make friends with a whole squad full of girls. And hey, maybe you’ll hit if off with an NFL player and you’ll become America’s Sweethearts. Plus, there’s the television coverage. Yes, being an NFL cheerleader means your face is sometimes on prime time television watched my millions of fans. There’s no way this job could suck, except it does suck. It sucks a lot.
Cheerleaders for the NFL may be beautiful, athletic, and semi-famous, but they jump through a lot of hoops. There may even be more rules for the NFL cheerleaders than there are for the actual players. The cheerleaders must meet strict standards in terms of their physical appearance. And we're not just talking standards like 'look pretty' or look like a contestant on The Bachelor. The standards for their physical appearance can dictate everything down to their nail polish color. There are consequences in the form of fines, suspensions, or being cut form the team when the cheerleaders don't meet these strict standards. On top of that, their personal lives and social media accounts are always being monitored. Think NFL cheerleaders are safe while having drinks with a friend on a Friday night? Think again. And for this all-consuming job, the cheerleaders can sometimes make as little as $5 an hour. No one is saying that the cheerleaders should be given million dollar contracts like the players, but the cheerleaders should be properly compensated for the standards to which they are held.
Below are the most shocking rules for NFL cheerleaders that truly highlight the unjust measurements these women are subjected to for their job. And yeah, you're totally going to love your boring office job a little bit more after reading through these.
17 They Must Reveal Their Bellybuttons On "2 Piece Tuesday" Or Else They're Fined
In a leaked handbook for the Oakland Raiders cheerleading team - the Raiderettes - there was explicit instruction about “2 Piece Tuesdays.” The handbook explains that on Tuesdays, all cheerleaders must wear a sport bra and shorts to practice. The sports bra must reveal the body from under the bust line and the shorts may not be basketball shorts or cut-off sweatpants, as “form-fitting” shorts are the only pair acceptable. On top of that, no cheerleader may wear leggings underneath said form-fitting shorts. So basically, these cheerleaders have to wear what amounts to a bikini to practice every Tuesday.
Failure to comply with the strict practice uniform results in a $10 fine. And yeah, $10 may not seem like too much, but when the cheerleaders are only making a reported $3,000 for the whole year, $10 is a decent chunk of their salary.
16 The Jiggle Tests: Cheerleaders Do Jumping Jacks And If They're Too "Jiggly" They're Dismissed
New York’s Buffalo Bills cheerleading team – the Buffalo Jills, which is kind of adorable – are forced to undergo “jiggle tests.” Before every game, the coach has all the cheerleaders dress in their uniforms and stand in a straight line. The coach will then walk around with a clipboard and inspect the women’s bodies, which is my worst actual nightmare come to life. While in line, the women are then instructed to do jumping jacks and the coach will write down all parts that jiggled too much. Yes, seriously, this happens.
Afterwards, cheerleaders will be sent emails listing their flaws. Cheerleaders whose bodies are too flawed will be benched for the upcoming game or, in some cases, let go from the team.
Other teams will resort to a more scientific version of the jiggle test and employ a scale. These teams weigh the cheerleaders twice a week. Cheerleaders are given a 3lb lenience, which means if one cheerleader's goal weight was 115lbs, a 118lb weigh-in would be acceptable. Anything greater than 3lbs, however, would get said cheerleader benched or cut. Though, there's no resource explaining who determines the "goal weight," so it's likely decided upon by the coach rather than the cheerleader herself.
15 They're Told Not To Wear Underwear To Practice
The Cincinnati Bengals cheerleading team – the Ben-Gals – have some rather odd rules to follow. In their handbook it says, “No panties are to be worn under practice clothes or uniform, not even thong panties.” The odd part is that no one sees their panties. Like, how do the coaches even know if these cheerleaders are wearing underwear that day or not? DO THEY CHECK? And furthermore, how does wearing underwear effect you performance as a cheerleader? I mean, just imagine if your boss ever told you not to wear underwear to work.
Oh, but the Ben-Gals are also instructed that they must wear supportive bras, as the handbook literally says, “No slouching breasts. Support as needed. Black or nude seamless bra mandatory for games. No lace.”
Also, why are all the names for these cheerleading teams so adorable – I mean, The BEN-GALS! COME ON! – and yet the rules for them so ugly?
14 They Must Be Camera-Ready Literally Every Second Of Every Day
Think being a NFL cheerleader is just a job on game days? Think again, baby. The Raiderettes handbook dictates that cheerleaders must look camera-ready literally every single second they are outside of their home. The handbook states:
“Even when you are not working in your capacity as a Raiderette you are still representing the Oakland Raiders. It is imperative that whenever you leave your home you look "put-together" so when someone recognizes you (and they will) they can say, "Raiderettes always look fabulous." We’ve all seen the stars in the tabloids that don’t look their best. Cell phone cameras are everywhere — be camera-ready!”
There are less strict rules for being a celebrity, who makes millions of dollars per film. I mean, Jennifer Lawrence is totally allowed to go to Trader Joe’s in leggings. But don’t you dare try that if you’re a Raiderette.
13 Smile, Ladies! Negative Facial Expressions Are Prohibited
Not only must you look good ALL THE TIME, but you also must be smiling ALL THE TIME too. Ugh, my jaw hurts just from thinking about the smiling that is mandatory for these cheerleaders. For the record, these standards are impossible. I mean, we all have bad hair days and bad mood days. So, either these insane rules are kind of the wink-wink rules, in that the NFL knows their cheerleaders will fail to meet these standards. Or, on the other hand, these rules could just be the result of the NFL not actually knowing what women are like at all.
Okay, back to the smiling. Handbooks dictate that “negative facial expressions” are prohibited. So, don’t ever frown, even if your team just lost the super bowl. In fact, if you have a resting B-face, don’t even apply to be a NFL cheerleader. You won’t make the cut, girl. Not resting B-faces allowed.
12 They're Told To Get Spray Tans And Their Teeth Whitened, But With Their Own Money
We’ve already established that the salary for being an NFL is measly at best. These women are making as low as $5 an hour, which is just insanity. On top of that, the cheerleaders are asked to spend their own money in order to be part of the team. Particularly, some when are told they need to get spray tans or their teeth whitened in order to stay on the team. These aren’t cheap beauty procedures, especially if you want them done right. And so, these women are forced to fork out hundred of dollars on beauty treatments to be on a team that pays them as little as $5 an hour. And no, there’s no reimbursement or anything like that.
If you’re wondering how this is legal, it’s not at all and the NFL is constantly dealing with lawsuits brought against them by the cheerleaders. In 2014, the Oakland Raiders paid out $1.25 million for their treatment of the cheerleaders. Unfortunately, it seems that the NFL as a whole has not made any strides in order to give these cheerleaders a better work environment and avoid lawsuits in the future.
11 All Their Social Media Accounts Are Monitored
You’d think the social media accounts of NFL cheerleaders would be so much fun, right? Cute pictures of practice with all your cheer besties, iconic pictures from the sidelines, and just the overall glam life of being an NFL cheerleader. Well, no. All their social media accounts are extremely monitored.
When joining a team, a cheerleader must accept a friend request from the director of the franchise, who will then monitor any material said cheerleader posts online. In some cases, cheerleaders have been asked to remove posts that the director deemed an unflattering representation of the NFL franchise. So, Big Brother is literally always spying on these cheerleaders and they just have to be okay with it.
Also, with the strict rules about looking perfect all the time and smiling all the time, one can only assume that these cheerleaders are simply not allowed to post a #nomakeup selfie or really any photo in which they don't look their absolute best.
10 While In Uniform, They're Not Allowed To Eat Or Sit Down
When at games or events for the team – pretty much any time in uniform – the cheerleaders are instructed that they may not sit down or eat. Though, the the handbooks have found clever ways to prohibit eating or sitting. In one handbook, cheerleaders are instructed to always be standing and moving around. So, basically 'do not sit' but without saying 'do not sit'. In another handbook, cheerleaders are told, "Do not overeat bread."
Oh, and the events have led to some sticky situations for the NFL. In particular the Buffalo Jills attended a golf event in which men participants forced them to do gymnastics for tips, but then never gave them the said tips. The event culminated when the cheerleaders were auctioned off to participants, who reportedly got handsy and inappropriate with the cheerleaders they bid on. On top of that, the cheerleaders were forced to sit on some of the men’s laps because the golf carts were too small. Moral of the story: NFL cheerleaders aren't allowed to sit, unless some dude paid for it. Gross.
Of course, this may have just been one disastrous event, but it does give some insight into just how poorly these NFL cheerleaders are treated.
9 When They Are Allowed To Eat, There's Instructions For That Too
When NFL cheerleaders are allowed to eat, there are rules for that too. One handbook even explains the proper way to eat soup. Yes, you read that correctly: EAT SOUP. The handbook explains, “Dip the spoon into the soup, moving it away from the body, until it is about two-thirds full, then sip the liquid, without slurping, from the side of the spoon without inserting the whole spoon into the mouth. This prevents soup from being spilled onto your clothes.”
It seems like a rule in place because the particular franchise is afraid of a cheerleader spilling some soup on her uniform, but it's the strangest, most specific rule to include in a handbook. I would like to assume there was the Great Soup Fiasco of 2001, in which one cheerleader went crazy from smiling too much and literally just poured a bowl of soup down her uniform, and this was when the soup rule was inducted into the handbook. Otherwise, it just seems like a strange rule. But um, I guess it’s good that the cheerleaders are instructed on the proper was to eat soup...?
There's also this fun rule about eating: "When cutting meat. Never cut the full piece of meat all at once. Cut as you go, American style (cut and switch fork to right hand to eat) or European style (keeping fork in left hand to eat) eating is acceptable."
It pretty much seems like the handbook assumes they are hiring toddler cheerleaders who need to be taught how to eat.
8 When They Are Allowed To Sit, There's Also Instructions For That
If a cheerleader doesn’t know how to sit, don’t worry! The handbook will teach them. No really, the handbook instructs that the Raiderettes cheerleaders, “Sit in a ladylike manner — cross your ankles or cross your legs but keep your legs together.”
Of course, maybe this is rule put in place because some teams force their cheerleaders to forgo wearing underwear. In that case, maybe we should just let the cheerleader wear underwear. However, it seems that the rules for being an NFL cheerleader are something of a bygone era, as if they are expected to be the idealistic southern belle who walks around with an umbrella because her skin is much too delicate for that harsh sun. I mean, how this rule is 100% southern belle: "Always say “excuse me” when you burp, sneeze or cough. Even if you think there isn’t anyone around."
7 Fraternizing With Football Players Is Warned Against, As It Could Ruin Their Reputation
What if a NFL cheerleader and a NFL player are romantically interested in each other? Or hey, what if they just want to grab drinks one night as friends, since they are pretty much coworkers after all? Well, tread lightly, cheerleaders. The Raiderettes handbook explains:
“There have been a few relationships between the two groups that have resulted in a few happy marriages and lovely children. HOWEVER, we have also had more situations where, quite frankly, the Raider organization and the Raiderettes narrowly escaped ruined reputations.”
In terms of "ruined reputations," the handbook cites a Halloween party one particular football player threw ever year. It was attended by many of the Raiderettes. That same football player was later suspended for a serious allegation brought against him by a woman, though not a Raiderette. The handbook then goes on, “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!”
In other words, don’t socialize with the football players because if you get assaulted, it will make you look bad.
6 If They Are Romantically Interested In A Player, It's Their Job To Find Out If He's Married
These NFL cheerleader handbooks cover all their bases. And so, we now come to the topic of a cheerleader and football player dating. What’s the worst that could happen in that case? Well, the player may be married, which would... be the cheerleader's fault? The Raiderettes handbook explains, “Make a point to find out if a player is married. In most cases, he won't tell you! You can call the Raider office with questions as to marital status and I encourage you to do so. Again, he will not tell you he's married!”
So, if a cheerleader is interested in a player, it’s 100% their responsibility to find out if he's married. What kind of backwards logic is this?
Furthermore, the handbook warns against calling players "just to chat" because it may make their wives angry. One handbook event states, "Never flirt!"
5 They Can Only Fix Their Uniform In A Bathroom, Never In Public
We've established that cheerleaders must always look perfect every single second of every single day and they must never frown and they must eat soup the right way, damn it! I guess that's not... impossible? However, rules also dictate that cheerleaders must never fuss with themselves as well. One handbook reads, “Any primping or fussing with your uniform, make-up or hairstyle must be done only in a restroom — never in public. The client assumes you are professional and close to perfect. Be sure you are!”
In a way, this makes sense. I mean, cheerleaders shouldn't take out their compact on the football field during a touchdown pass. But that’s common sense. However, it seems extreme to tell cheerleader that they must be perfect and must make it look effortless, especially when the handbook pretty much dictate all the effort that must be put into their look. I'm tired just thinking about being an NFL cheerleader.
4 Also, Keep Nail Polish Pads In Your Car For Emergencies (Yes, Seriously)
NFL cheerleaders are expected to be perfect from their head down to their nails. Literally, as only certain nail polish colors are even permitted. Furthermore, cheerleaders are told to keep nail polish pads in their car for emergencies. The emergency being chipped nail polish, of course.
On the note of cars, some handbooks dictate cheerleaders never wear their uniform while in a motor vehicle. Yes, there are some seriously odd rules in these handbooks, one of which reads, “Don’t use lufa’s or sponges. They hold TONS of germs! Throw them away now!"
Think instruction about how to shower are too much? Check out this one: "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 can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night."
Lastly, this rule is just amazing: “Absolutely no arguing or questioning the person in authority!" (Quick someone play the Bring it On scene in which Kirsten Dunst says, "It's a cheerocracy.")
3 Cheerleaders Are Constantly Reminded That They Aren't Important
In order to keep cheerleaders from asking for more freedom, compensation, or simply to be treated like actual human beings, the handbooks tend to remind cheerleaders just how unimportant they are. One handbook states, “Remember, as important as you are to our organization, football is the name of the game. Fans would come to see the games whether or not we had cheerleaders. There are some great teams who do not have cheerleaders, such as the 2010 Champion Green Bay Packers. They are sold out every Sunday.”
The handbook goes on to remind the cheerleaders that the Chicago Bears used to have a cheerleading team, but disbanded it due to “morality problems with their squad.”
There is, of course, such irony for a handbook to ask so much of an employee, all while simultaneously telling the employee that they don’t really matter to the organization.
2 All Of This, And Yet Many Cheerleaders Make As Little As $5 Per Hour
How do franchises get away with paying cheerleaders so little money? Well, they don’t, as many NFL franchises have paid out big settlements once cheerleaders have brought lawsuits against them. Unfortunately, it seems that the cheerleaders don't necessarily know how little they will make when they are first hired for the team.
Instead of being paid an annual salary or an hourly wage, most cheerleaders are paid per appearance. The Ben-Gals, for example, are paid $90 per football game plus other paid appearances. Though, not every cheerleader is picked for every paid appearance. On top of that, the Ben-Gals are also requires to do 12 charity events, which are unpaid. When all it is all said and done, with the compensation and hours worked between games, appearances, and practices, cheerleaders can make as little as $5 an hour.
This is especially bothersome when it’s estimated that some cheerleading teams can bring in as much as $1 million for a NFL franchise. When one also considers that mascots make $25,000 to $60,000 per season, the salary for a cheerleader is truly appalling.
1 If Complaints Are Made, The Entire Cheerleading Team Will Be Disbanded
With such shocking evidence of illegal treatment, it can be difficult to understand why the cheerleaders haven’t banded together and won their battle for better pay, better treatment, and the ability to eat soup however they damn well please. However, when cheerleading teams do band together, said teams are usually disbanded as a whole, with the franchise either ending their cheerleading team all together or hiring a whole new one. Particularly, the Bears, Packers, Lions, Giants, Steelers, and Browns don’t even have cheerleading teams.
And so, franchises always have the option of just ending their cheerleading team when complaints are brought up. To some, this may seem like a refreshing answer, as the idea of cheerleaders can often times be considered antiquated and sexist. However, ending a team because women are simply demanding to be fairly compensated is true sexism. As one cheerleader puts it, “I do love being a Raiderette, and I love cheering on a football team. I just want us to be compensated legally, and treated with respect.”
So next time your boyfriend makes your root for his team or whatever, make sure to show the cheerleaders some love and marvel at how all their uniforms are amazingly free of any soup stains.