Being a cheerleader in the NFL looks like it would be a lot of fun. One would assume that these women get a lot of perks with the job. They get to travel with the team, they have a job dancing which is most likely one of their passions, and let’s face it, they have the opportunity to start a relationship with a professional athlete.
However, after several lawsuits have been filed over the years by the cheerleaders, one has to wonder what in the world is going on behind closed doors. Many people don’t know that the cheerleaders of the NFL teams have a strict set of rules to follow. And a lot of those rules put these women in some crazy situations. Some are forced to go to events, dress a certain way, and in some cases, even eat particular brands in public. Let’s keep in mind that they usually don’t get paid extra for all of this. It’s all apart of their insanely precise contracts.
These cheerleaders don't talk about their strict guidelines often, but I'm about to.
17 Mose Cheerleaders Get Auctioned Off
During most of the public events that the cheerleaders are required to attend, some have to be in a bikini. Even though in the real world, we all know that being in a bikini is usually not acceptable at most events.
While cheering for the Buffalo Bills, many of the dancers (called the "Jills") are required to attend their Annual Golf Tournament wearing bikinis. They had to sit in dunk tanks while people tried to dunk them. Other cheerleaders—also wearing bikinis—had to stand on stage and be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
They then had to spend the entire event escorting the winner around while still wearing a bikini. What’s crazy is that many of the cheerleaders made claims that the men they were forced to escort around made lewd comments and touched them inappropriately.
16 Victim Blaming
Ah, okay this is just crazy. According to the official NFL cheerleaders handbook, the women are responsible for avoiding assault (because they have so much control over that).
In particular, in the Raiderette’s handbook, it says; “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.”
So basically, don’t ruin your own reputation, and in the process, embarrass them. This seems like a backwards way of thinking and they probably don’t mean to sound as harsh as the written word sounds. But, this could be said in a way where they actually express concern for the cheerleaders.
15 Some Have To Buy The Annual Calendar
Remember those calendars that the women pose for every year? Well, apparently being featured in the calendar doesn’t mean you get a complimentary calendar. In particular, the women of co-ed Ravens cheerleading team are forced to buy 100 copies of the calendar at $12.00 a piece and sell them for $15.00....
Yes, I said co-ed, and get this: the male cheerleaders are not in the calendar but they can show up to the shoot to watch the women being photographed. As for selling the calendar, men only have to buy 20 and there isn’t a lot of pressure on them to sell it.
So many things are wrong with this situation, like, where should I begin? Why are the men only required to sell 20 calendars? What happened to privacy? Why can they just show up and watch the women being photographed?
14 'Two-Piece Tuesdays'
Apparently certain days of the week call for special requirements. One of the most shocking days of the week is Tuesdays, especially for the Raiderettes. It’s called “2 Piece Tuesdays,” which means that they HAVE to wear a two-piece outfit.
It must consist of “A sports bra-type top and shorts. The top must fit like a sports bra to reveal the body from under the bust line and form-fitting shorts.”
The craziest part is that their bellybuttons MUST be revealed. If the cheerleaders don’t show their bellybuttons, there is a $10 fine. Yup, a fine for not baring your midriff; in particular, your bellybutton. Can you imagine what other days of the week are like? If they can do this then they can implement even worse things for these women to endure.
13 No Undies
The Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders ultimately had to take matters into their own hands when a no underwear rule was implemented.
The girls known as the "Ben-Gal cheerleaders" filed a class-action lawsuit when they were told that they could not wear underwear basically at all when at work. The handbook officially stated, “No panties are to be worn under practice clothes or uniform, not even thong panties.” In addition, they are forced to wear bras because the handbook specifically says, “No slouching breasts. Support as needed. Black or nude seamless bra mandatory for games. No lace.”
They are truly trying to dictate every aspect of what goes on with the women’s body. They even stated that pantyhose can be worn but not the ones with the “control top.” So, basically, they want those pantyhose to slip down as they dance like crazy.
12 No Driving In The Uniform
One of the weirdest rules that some of the teams have to follow—including the Ben-Gal cheerleaders—is about driving. Apparently, they are not allowed to wear the uniform while driving. This means that after games, they have to immediately take the uniform off.
The chances of them wanting to keep it on are slim to none, but sometimes people are just so tired , they want to get in their car and go home. They don’t care that they are still in their uniform, but the team managers do. It’s a weird rule and I can only assume they put it in place because if something happens to the girls while wearing the uniform, it could cause a lot of bad press.
It’s a bit of a petty rule but it’s nowhere near as bad as some of the other rules.
11 Glamour Is Controlled
This may not seem as surprising as other rules but nonetheless, it’s interesting. The girls are skilled dancers but at the end of the day, they are apart of the team because of their looks. Some of the teams have had their demands leaked and they are fascinating to read.
The Buffalo Bills cheerleaders (the Jills) have strict rules for their nails.
They have to rock a French manicure or natural polish. For hair, it has to be a “full curl and free-flowing,” but if your hair is short, “it must be worn full and fabulous!” The Ravens cheerleaders must have a “warm skin color tone.” They are given tanning vouchers, gym memberships, and teeth whitening. But, the vouchers are limited so when they run out you have to pay out of your pocket. Even the Ben-Gals are required to “stay away from frosted lipsticks and eyeshadows.”
10 No Sweatpants
Even off the field, cheerleaders are required to adhere to a strict dress code. While most handbooks are not outrightly specific about what the cheerleaders can wear, they are quite specific about what they cannot wear. One of those specificities is sweatpants.
Whether appearing in public or online, they are not allowed to wear sweatpants. This is kind of crazy because many people workout in sweatpants and one would assume it’s easier to practice in sweatpants. They are also not allowed to wear what is deemed “nude, semi-nude, or lingerie."
A New Orleans Saints cheerleader by the name of Bailey Davis was fired after appearing in a black lace bodysuit on Instagram. They also accused her of fraternizing with the players which is also strictly forbidden. But ultimately, she was fired for appearing in a bodysuit on Instagram.
9 Some Cannot Be Three Pounds Overweight
Since we all know that being a cheerleader is less about the moves and more about the looks, it should be no surprise that there are weight restrictions. Especially for the Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders.
The girls cannot be more than three pounds overweight. There is even a particular weight that they must be! The weight hasn’t been revealed, but many have speculated that it is 115 pounds.
For the Ben-Gals, if they come in three pounds overweight, immediate action is taken. They have to stay after practice for conditioning workouts and if that doesn’t work, the next step is suspension—or worse off—getting fired. Some senior-level cheerleaders have been given a bit of leniency by being benched until they lose the weight. However, sometimes their pay is docked.
8 They Have To Buy Their Own Uniform?
One would assume that one of the perks of becoming a cheerleader is getting the outfit. One would also assume that the outfit comes free with the job. Correct me if I'm wrong but the NFL is a billion-dollar business, right? So, why are the cheerleaders forced to pay for their own uniform?
This is ridiculous because what people don’t know is being a cheerleader is a seasonal job.
A lot of the women have to have another source of income or some are in school or trying to get a leg up in their career. Their pay for being a cheerleader is garbage, and depending who they cheer for its usually between $100-175.00 per game. So, having to turn around and spend that little bit of money on a uniform is insane. Keep in mind that the uniform is hundreds of dollars, but at least they get to keep it, because it can be valuable later on in life.
7 Don’t Eat Where The Players Eat
After a complaint was filed against the New Orleans Saints through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lot of crazy rules came to light. One of them was avoiding the players in public at all cost.
The rulebook insists that if a cheerleader goes to a restaurant and a player walks in, they must get up and leave right away. The same thing goes if they see a player in a restaurant they have plans to eat at — they must not go in. This is supposedly put in place as per fraternization rules. It probably doesn’t happen that often but still, the New Orleans Saints have taken every precaution they can. Again, like most things, this responsibility falls entirely on the cheerleaders. They are the ones who must avoid the players at all cost and not the other way around.
6 Block All Players On Social Media
Another revelation that came to light when a complaint was filed against the New Orleans Saints, was that the cheerleaders are required to block players on all social media pages.
This isn’t just for the Saints, though. Apparently, all cheerleaders on every team must block all players from every team.
There are about 2,000 NFL players and the cheerleaders are responsible for making sure they block every last one of them including the ones using pseudonyms. So technically, they are responsible for knowing all the player's social media names and blocking them all because that's logical... One thing that I do find funny is even with all these rules, there are still so many current and former cheerleaders that are married to players. So maybe the rules are just not working.
5 Remember, You Won't Always Get Paid
Most of those extra events that you see the cheerleaders show up to are unpaid.
The cheerleaders get paid when they have to show up to games if they aren't suspended or considered too overweight to participate. When it comes to extra events, like charity parties and galas, most aren’t being paid. It’s apart of their contract to show up and be present when called basically.
They are even required to sell raffle tickets at games, but if they aren’t cheering that day, they apparently don’t get paid. Some cheerleading teams don’t receive any of the proceeds from selling calendars and raffle tickets. Aren't there labor laws against this? They might as well be volunteering cheerleaders because it sounds like they are getting ripped off a bit.
4 Remember You’re A Non-Factor
The cheerleader handbook for the Raiderettes specifically reminds the cheerleaders that they are basically nobodies. It says:
“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.”
It even goes on to explain just how much of a non-factor they are. They give the example of other teams like the Green Bay Packers who don’t have a cheerleading team and still sell out arenas. Not only does that sound harsh, it’s also an insane way to tell someone that no one cares about their presence. It makes me question why they bother to waste their money paying these women if they don’t add any real value to the game.
3 Do Your Relationship Homework
Although many (probably all the teams) encourage their cheerleaders to essentially stay away from the players and do not strike up any kind of relationship with them. They also let the women know that it is ultimately their responsibility to find out if the player is married.
Even if the player lies and for some reason, the cheerleader isn’t smart enough to use Google, it will always be her fault when you-know-what hits the fan. The NFL does not want to have to deal with your relationships dramas. Really, everyone should look into if the person they’re dating is actually single. However, because the person they are pursuing is famous, it’s a bit easier to find out. If the cheerleader screws this up, they risk getting fired and of course that dreaded media scandal that they are always warned about.
2 Certain People Must Get A Friend Request
The Ravens are super hard on their cheerleaders. They want to make sure that none of them are embarrassing the team in anyway. One of the ways they have come up with to make sure of this, is by demanding friend requests.
Yes, every Baltimore Ravens cheerleader that is active on social media (which is essentially all of them, who isn’t?) has to send a friend request to the director.
It is specifically written in the handbook. They also have to tell them the email address connected to their social media profiles. Not complying with this rule is only harmful to the cheerleader, there is always someone waiting in the wings to take their spot. Social media can be a career killer and the team is only looking out for the best interest of the brand. None of these women can say that they feel secure in this job.
1 You Have To Talk A Certain Way
The Jills handbook is insane. They are told how they should talk in order to provide an enjoyable conversation. I'm not sure for who, but I assume the fans and even the players.
The handbook even gives several examples of how the women should respond to people. For instance, “Do not be overly opinionated about anything. Do not complain about anything — ever hang out with a whiner? It’s exhausting and boring.”
Then there is this one, “Do not use slang in conversations. Never use words/phrases such as: 'like,' 'I seen it,' 'You’s guys,' 'dude,' 'them guys,' 'pee,' and 'ain’t.'" They also have particular topics they must avoid; religion, politics, talking “about last night,” and NEVER talk about your personal life (boyfriend, job, what you’re doing later). And, of course, don’t gossip because that’s all women do apparently...
Sources: BBC, Boston, The Cut, Deadspin, Deadspin, Deadspin, Deadspin, Mic, Mic, NY Times, Vox
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