In Defense Of Cheerleaders: Why The NFL Needs To Stop Grifting The Women On The Sidelines
2:00 pm, May 1st | by Amy Tennery
With May beginning, football might not be the first thing on your mind. But for hundreds of women across the country, it is. Because just as the draft has wound down a new recruiting wave is underway: The NFL cheerleader tryouts.
Chances are some of you are rolling your eyes right now, I’m sure. But while we can debate the value of NFL cheerleaders from a cultural standpoint for hours, there is one undeniable truth about these women: They are, perhaps, the least utilized financial tool in the NFL’s arsenal.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll use the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to lay out my case. Given the Dallas squad’s vaunted status in the cheer world, there’s a greater volume of financial information available on them — and it paints a rather bleak picture.
Put bluntly, getting onto the Dallas Cowboys cheer team is a financial investment on a par with beauty pageantry. And anyone who doesn’t grasp the severity of the analogy has clearly never seen Toddlers and Tiaras.
For instance, if you wanted to get on the DCC team, you’d probably want to purchase some official DCC Prep Classes, which will cost you about $39 a pop. The finalist workshop, meanwhile, (which is extended to final auditions contestants only), will cost you $75. You might also want to look into getting that “Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader” look. The squad’s guidelines suggest you head over to Premier Atelier and get an appointment for “a DCC consultation.” That’s right — it’s a specific hair salon, your ferry across the river Styx, if you will. Then there’s also your $25 “non-refundable processing fee.” And this isn’t counting all the other expenditures that come with the cheerleading life (see image below from the DCC website), including tans, teeth maintenance, makeup, and regular yoga and bootcamp workouts.
That’s a lot of physical maintenance. At least to some of us. A story in TBD last year recalled a Washington Redskins seminar, which instructed would-be cheerers not to “have a nervous breakdown” after they listed out their cosmetic self-improvement suggestions.
For all this, what can our hypothetical DCC member expect in return? Well, for starters, she doesn’t get paid a full-time salary. She gets around $50 for each home game. Seriously. And DCC members are not compensated for rehearsals, or workouts. And this is pretty much the industry standard. Most NFL cheerleaders pull in between $50 and $75 per game, according to Conducive Chronicle. WIth just eight regular season home games (and hey, it’s the Cowboys we’re talking about here, so regular season’s about all you’re getting, if you know what I mean… ) they’re not even coming close to hitting the one-grand mark for game-time performances. For the whole season.
Of course, there are the outside appearances, calendar pictorials, and so on. And for those, the DCC members get supplemental income. Even so, one AskMen report pegged the Dallas Cowboys’ expenditure on the cheerleaders somewhere roughly between $200 and $1,000 per month, per cheerleader. Now if this is just a hobby for you (a hobby that requires a tremendous time commitment) the payout is less of a big deal. Still, this is about fairness — and that salary is phenomenally low, especially when you consider how much the DCC brings in for its franchise.
Yes, estimating a cheerleader’s financial worth is a tricky business. And the six teams that don’t have cheerleaders haven’t crumbled out of existence (unless you’re counting the Cleveland Browns — hi-yo!). But cheerleaders add value. They put in an insane number of charity appearances, which makes their respective franchises look good. The Minnesota Vikings, for example, require their cheerleaders to make a minimum of two charity appearances a month. Then there’s the merchandise, the pep, the cheers, and the ra-ra that they bring to the table. (Unfortunately only one of these is quantifiable — but still!)
Which brings us back to the DCC ladies. So we’ve established that they each cost between $200 and $1,000 a month (we’ll just average it out to $600 to make it easier). And that’s for a (roughly) four-ish-month-long season. And there are 35 cheerleaders on the Dallas Cowboys squad. That’s $84,000 that the Cowboys are paying. For the whole squad. (By the way, the DCC also has its own sponsors, including TIGI Bed Head, so it’s probably not costing the franchise squat.)
Compare that to the tangible financial returns the franchise gets from its cheer squad: According to some estimates, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders pull in $1 million a year. Sure, for a massive financial success like the Cowboys, that’s not that big of a deal — but cost-reward ratio here is astonishing. This is a virtually no-cost outfit that’s worth a million bucks.
Can you imagine how much they could earn for their team if someone actually invested in them? Give these women actual salaries, full-time status — make being a cheerleader a viable career, rather than asking them to run ragged between that and some other full-time gig they’d rather not be doing. They’re worth it — and so is the payoff.
Image via Flickr.