Whatever Taylor Swift may have said about cheerleaders wearing short skirts and being less worthy of a guy’s love than her is totally wrong, because cheerleaders work their butts off! Not only do they have crazy amount of energy and physical fitness, but there are a ton of things that test a cheerleader’s limits throughout her time with the team. It’s a lot more than waving some pom-poms around.
Football is still one of the most-watched sports in North America, and while it’s always been a ‘man’s man’ kind of activity, it seems to have been at the expense of the women working hard at the sidelines. While they get paid millions of dollars, cheerleaders are barely scraping by. These are just 20 of the craziest, most antiquated, and off-putting rules that professional cheerleaders are forced to follow.
20 Speak Properly!
According to the cheerleader handbook for the Buffalo Jills, poor grammar and certain words are verboten on the team. They’re also told to say, “Oh my goodness” and never “Oh my god”. The rules even apply when no one is around! The women are told to always excuse themselves for a cough or sneeze, even if they’re alone.
19 How To Deal With Her TOTM
In the same handbook, these cheerleaders are told – embarrassingly and condescendingly – how to deal with their time of the month. The women are told in the book to wear a “product that is right for your flow”, and to change them every four hours, except when sleeping. A little TMI, we think!
18 Keep Smiling – Or Else
If you’re a cheerleader who’s having a bad day, you’d better make sure no one else knows about it! Multiple handbooks for the Buffalo Jills, the Raiderettes, and the Ben-Gals forbids “negative expressions” and doesn’t allow their girls to have opinions – seriously! The Ben-Gals’ book states (in all caps), “Absolutely no arguing or questioning the person in authority!!!”
17 No Eating In Uniform
While cheerleaders aren’t forbidden from eating per se, they are limited in what they can do while in uniform. Unless arrangements have been made ahead of time, they are not allowed to eat while in uniform, according to the Buffalo Jills handbook. This means declining offers of food but never saying, “I can’t eat”, which would reflect negatively on the organization.
16 Slap On A Full Face
You’d better believe that you’re getting all sweaty when you’re out on the field whipping up the crowd, but that doesn’t mean you get to skimp on the makeup! The Buffalo Jills are told that, when at work, they must wear foundation, blush, three eye shadow colors, eye liner, mascara, and lipstick, whether they be auditioning and any time in uniform!
15 No Water Breaks
All those gymnastics have probably made you thirsty but, if you’re a cheerleader, too bad, you’ll have to wait! According to a New York Times article published on the treatment of professional cheerleaders in football, women like the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders aren’t allowed water breaks unless their team is on offense.
14 Going Commando
If those skin-tight or skimpy outfits didn’t convince you, then yes, it should be an obvious rule that cheerleaders are told to go commando. In the Ben-Gals handbook, it states, “No panties are to be worn under practice clothes or uniforms, not even thong panties.”
While underwear is prohibited, bras are a requirement (without any lace, of course).
13 Color Coded Physical Appearance
If you thought all cheerleaders looked alike, there’s probably a good reason for that! For the Buffalo Jills, nails “must be maintained with a French manicure or natural polish” and hair must always be “free-flowing”, while the Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders “must have a warm skin tone for every game day” and are provided with tanning vouchers to make this possible.
12 Stay In Uniform!
In the same New York Times article, it was revealed that the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders must stay in uniform the whole time they’re in the stadium, and aren’t allowed to change into their street clothes until they’ve left the premises. The Oakland Raiders cheerleaders are slapped with fines if they fail to bring a part of their uniform to work or even polish their boots!
11 No Tattoos Or Piercings
With their barely-there outfits, it’s not all that surprising that cheerleaders are given strict rules about tattoos and piercings, which is not to have any. If they do have any that are visible, many cheerleaders – including the Carolina Panthers – must cover them up at all times when they’re on the field.
10 Keep It Professional
Despite working alongside mega-famous football players, the cheerleaders themselves have to keep quiet about their employment. For example, San Francisco 49ers cheerleaders can’t even tell people that they’re affiliated with the team, while all NFL cheerleaders are discouraged from associating with football players themselves, which means no autographs or social media follows.
9 Always Be On
Being a professional cheerleader is a 24/7 gig and the women are encouraged to always look fabulous, in case anyone should spot them and know them as being associated with the team. For the Oakland Raiderettes, they are told, “Whenever you leave your home, you look ‘put-together’ so when someone recognizes you (and they will) they can say, ‘Raiderettes always look fabulous!’”
8 Going Sans Sweatpants
Part of always being camera-ready means looking the part, too. As previously mentioned, some teams don’t allow their cheerleaders to change out of uniform until they’re out of the stadium, while others don’t let them wear sweatpants! For several teams, wearing sweatpants out in public, no matter how cute, is strictly forbidden.
7 Get There Early
Cheerleading is a gruelling, labor-intensive job that requires a lot of commitment from its workers, and that includes getting to the field hours before everyone else. Cheerleaders for the Carolina Panthers (known as the TopCats) show up no less than five hours before kickoff on game days, to make sure that they know their stuff and are ready to look their best.
6 Body Scrutiny
Women with low self-esteem need not apply, because this condition is downright degrading. The Buffalo Jills would subject their cheerleaders to a physical evaluation termed the “jiggle test”, in which the women did jumping jacks while coaches judged their bodies to see if they appeared fit enough to take the field. Those who failed the test were benched, suspended, or even dismissed.
5 Keep Things Tasteful
While the treatment of professional cheerleaders hasn’t always been very professional, the women themselves are expected to behave without reproach. The Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders cannot pose in any risqué ways, work as exotic dancers, or be in any “tasteless films, photos, or bikini/swimwear contest”. This flies in the face of the dozens of calendars that have been produced featuring scantily-clad cheerleaders.
4 Buy Their Own Uniforms
Despite being grossly underpaid, cheerleaders for many professional teams are expected to shell out hundreds of dollars to purchase their own uniforms! Those lucky few who don’t have to pay upfront for the cost of their new duds, like the Seattle Seahawks, are instead forced to pay any of the costs for mending or maintenance.
3 Weight Limits
Much has been made about the critical standards for body weight in cheerleading, but a few teams stand out as the worst. Baltimore Ravens girls go through regular weigh-ins, and failure to comply could result in dismissal from the team. The Ben-Gals were given a three-pound leniency, where they had to be within three pounds of their ideal weight, or stay after practice for extra conditioning.
2 Overworked And Underpaid
With all the work they do at games and at practice, cheerleaders are rarely properly compensated. Many teams have gotten away with paying cheerleaders only on a per-event basis, which can amount to as little as $90-$125 for a game. According to PBS, some cheerleaders make as little as $5/hour – well below minimum wage.
1 Objectified Off The Field
Being objectified on the field is one thing, but many cheerleaders are objectified off the field as well. Despite being told to dress properly in public or for photoshoots, teams have no issue with forcing their cheerleaders into bikinis in the name of charity, allowing for many uncomfortable – and occasionally criminal – situations to occur.
Sources: Deadspin, Ranker, Business Insider, Deadspin, New York Times, PBS