How Much Money Does an NFL Cheerleader Make?

Cheerleaders don’t make a whole lot. Often, their pay is below minimum wage. On average, an NFL cheerleader earns $150 per game. They make $50 to $75 for public appearances. Let's find out more.

| Read: 6 min

Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders taking part in the Indy 500 parade for NFL promotion
The Colts cheerleading squad supporting the Indy 500.

Professional cheerleaders are instantly recognizable. You would think their commitment to games, practices, and individual roles would earn them a hefty paycheck. Plus, considering the average NFL team is worth more than $2 billion, they could pay their girls a good chunk of change. But that’s not the case.

Being a cheerleader isn’t all fun and games.

Cheerleaders devote and train themselves for this career. In general, they’re paid to perform and cheer for their corresponding teams. Each performance is staged, rehearsed, and scheduled. Cheerleading is a tough, sweaty, and competitive career. You can make it big in the cheerleading business with the demand for pretty, athletic women going through the roof.

That said, this sport is not for everyone. Cheerleaders don’t make much money, despite their job requiring long hours before, during, and after the game. To prepare, the girls spend 30 to 40 hours per week practicing. Sometimes, they spend as long as 14 hours in a stadium. They live on buses traveling to and from games.

In 2021, many cheerleaders filed lawsuits to help their cause and took a stand over the unreasonably small compensation. So, we have peace of mind that their conditions are slowly improving and wages are increasing as the years go by, but not enough. Their salaries are small compared to the players and other staff.

NFL Cheerleading Requirements

Cheerleading isn’t a glamorous gig. Every girl has to follow strict rules and a regimented schedule vigorously. Their practices are day-long, and because of the low pay, they often use cheerleading as a part-time job, working in addition to their full-time job to be more financially stable.

They must make public appearances at photoshoots and other promotions. Despite being a side gig, cheerleaders face some harsh realities that might not be worth it. They have to look perfect constantly and avoid gaining weight. They need manicured nails and long, styled hair. Sometimes even the wrong skin tone can result in termination.

Each team plays ten home games, two during the preseason and eight during the regular season, so there’s hardly any time off. Some cheerleading squads have to work holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, if their team plays.

Additionally, they can’t socialize with NFL players. Hard to believe, right?

How Much Money Does an NFL Cheerleader Make?

Their job is more than just performing. Cheerleaders provide that undeniable sex appeal to hook the attention of fans. The NFL cheerleader salary depends on whether or not they make multiple appearances.

Some cheerleaders reported earning $3,000 per season, with some as low as $1,250 per season. In simpler terms, that equates to $2.75 per hour. Once you factor in the fees for training, hairdressing, and makeup, that money is practically gone.

Furthermore, some NFL clubs require cheerleaders to pay for their auditions themselves. For example, the Atlanta Falcons charge $35; the New Orleans Saints charge $75.

Some cheerleaders see higher salaries if they’re the leaders of the cheering teams with years of experience. They can earn up to $75,000 per year, which is still low compared to the average salary of their male football counterparts. They can earn more if the team makes the playoffs.

Cheerleader Pay vs. Other NFL Wages

The average NFL player earns $2 million per season, while head coaches can earn up to $7 million. We all know they get paid way more than that though. The NFL team mascot gets $25,000 per season, and NFL waterboys have better salaries than the hardworking girls, making $53,000 per year.

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are the most famous cheerleading team in the NFL. The girls make an average of $15 to $20 per hour. They get $500 per match and earn more money through advertisements, attending events, and even via a reality TV show. The more fans you have, the more you can develop your career.

Dallas Mavericks cheerleaders from the National Basketball Association
What about NFL cheerleaders vs NBA cheerleaders?

What Does an NFL Cheerleader Do?

Cheerleaders are the eye-catching and boisterous female team that stirs up the crowd. They do various activities to engage and enthuse the audience. They make the game more fun and exciting, encouraging fans to scream and shout for their team. They contribute to the team's success and connect the audience to their favorite players.

Cheerleaders often work at gyms or student sports clubs. They wear various costumes and prepare for countless hours to give their best performance every time.

They’re outstanding athletes who started in high school or college. Some schools have graduate programs for those who want to pursue this profession and more educational opportunities. Cheerleading can be extremely fun and interesting when you have the right personality and attitude.

The season and team determine the cheerleader roles. More common roles are paid less than other experienced members. Individual salaries range from small to large, depending on their experience level. For example, a rookie cheerleader will earn less than a veteran cheerleader.

Additional programs and bonus rewards are a few incentives for cheerleaders to continue down this path. Cheerleaders help create memories of watching the super bowl for both young and old fans. Overall, a cheerleader’s job can be enjoyable but stressful.

Characteristics of an Average NFL Cheerleader

Let’s dive into what NFL teams look for in their cheerleaders. Those who love large gatherings and noise will appreciate participating as a cheerleader.

Cheerleaders help resolve conflicts. When you work in a large group, you’ll undeniably encounter disputes. You need to collaborate proactively with other team members.

Cheerleaders need to be able to communicate well with their coach and team members. If you’re asked to play an important role on the squad, you shouldn’t hesitate to accept and take the plunge for the team. Cheerleaders are good listeners, tactful, and respectful.

One of the most crucial aspects of cheerleading is your health. Cheerleaders have the strength and endurance to lead the crowd. They practice consistently and perform dangerous jumps. They need to be well-built and muscular.

Moreover, cheerleaders help inspire the crowd, making every timeout, break, or post-match performance entertaining. They increase the crowd’s excitement and rekindle the energy in the stadium. Cheerleaders encourage fans to stay, sometimes working in the bands, dancing, and performing in musical shows.

Cheerleaders need to be dedicated and determined. They practice daily and confirm they’re in the best shape to perform complicated moves. They’re reliable, punctual, and mature. Additionally, cheerleaders separate their personal and professional feelings.

Cheerleaders need to have good memorization and dancing skills. They know all the cheers and chants by heart. Sometimes, they work with the other entertainment and exchange different positions, trying various stunts to make the crowd ooh and ahh.

Why Is The Pay So Low?

Now that you know what to expect of cheerleaders, you’re probably wondering why the teams don't compensate them well. Technically, cheerleaders are independent contractors. In other words, the team doesn't need to pay salaries in line with the state or federal minimum wages.

Years ago, cheerleaders would earn as little as $5 per hour. The girls have fought for decades for more money. As we previously said, a lawsuit resulted in many National Football League teams being sued for wage theft, unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment, and discrimination. This movement ignited more discussion about women's exploitation in sports.

Hopefully, in the future years, they’ll be more respected and paid higher wages for the work and time they dedicate to their career.

NFL Cheerleader Benefits

NFL cheerleaders are one of the most popular forms of sports celebrities. They can earn thousands of dollars, but that comes with practicing their skills for weeks or months before the game day. Cheerleaders undergo several exercises and attend cheerleading camps to advance. Once established, cheerleaders can reap amazing benefits.

Cheerleaders have a distinctive level of fame, sleeping in luxury hotels and earning a decent amount of money after they put the time and energy into their careers. Many cheerleaders attend sports tournaments and accomplish a lot in their time working for the NFL.

The team’s winning percentage contributes to their salaries. The more successful the team is, the higher the salaries. Their popularity also contributes to the cheerleader wage.

Things To Consider

Cheerleaders work in more than just football; you can find a team of girls cheering on basketball, baseball, soccer, and ice hockey teams nowadays. The NFL usually offers the highest salaries, while the NBA offers the lowest.

Cheerleaders can choose which team they want to play for and opt to stay with the same team or leave. They must be careful when making this decision. Cheerleaders for teams with strong players earn the highest salary. Most cheerleaders recognize that they should earn more than the minimum wage for this profession.

Teams with Named Cheerleading Squads

Amazingly, the old Redskinettes became the Command Force. That’s pretty slick. Some teams, such as the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and New England Patriots just use the title, “Cheerleaders” to name their squad.

Teams without Cheerleading Squads

NFL games that feature teams on this list will go cheerleader-less. Due to the nature of the 17 game NFL season, more games than not feature them. Interestingly enough, the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants feature neither a cheerleading squad, nor a mascot.

We have to guess that NFL mascots stay a bit warmer in those suits than a team’s supporting cheerleaders in cold weather climates.

Final Thoughts

Cheerleaders are paid based on the amount of work that they do. The yearly earnings depend on their location, what events they attend, how long they’ve been with the organization, and the difficulty level. While cheerleaders don’t get paid as much as they should, they get to travel and encounter great opportunities.