Pretty as they are, cheerleaders are also athletes in their own right. In fact, their jobs are sometimes harder than the players they support.
Cheerleaders must follow strict rules that govern their entire lives, including what they wear, eat, and post online. If you want a glimpse into the life of a cheerleader, take a look at all the ridiculous rules NFL cheerleaders have to follow.
They Buy Their Own Uniform
You know those pretty uniforms cheerleaders wear to the game? They’re not free, and apparently they don’t come cheap. While you might assume that the uniforms would be paid for by the NFL team, many cheerleaders have to buy their own uniforms.
Most uniforms cost more than $500. Since cheerleaders only get paid minimum wage (roughly $10). Plus, cheerleaders may need more than one uniform for different events, meaning they rack up a pretty high bill during every NFL season.
They’re Fined For Missing Rehearsal
Cheerleading is a sort of job, but it’s certainly not one where the girls can make a real living. Not many people know this, but cheerleaders aren’t paid very well. That is if they’re paid at all.
Unfortunately, having another job doesn’t work well with cheerleading practice since most cheerleaders are required to be present at literally every rehearsal. They’re fined if they miss a rehearsal and completely fired if they miss more than a certain amount. It’s worth mentioning that the cheerleaders aren’t paid for these rehearsals, which makes it all the more frustrating that they have to show up no matter what.
They Can’t Sit During Games
While the football players are getting beat up on the field, the cheerleaders are standing on the sidelines cheering them on. No matter how long the game goes, however, the cheerleaders are not allowed to sit down.
Cheerleaders are required to stand and move around for the entirety of the game. If you’ve ever watched the NFL, you know that it can take a very long time. Cheerleaders can sit only if an official asks them to. Otherwise, they’re required to stay on their feet no matter what.
They Must Sit in a Ladylike Manner
When cheerleaders are allowed to sit, they can’t just relax on their own terms. Instead, the handbook says that they must sit in a ladylike manner. We assume that means that they should maintain their posture and cross their legs, just like your mom told you to do when you were young.
But an NFL team is not a parent. With all that cheerleaders put their bodies through, they should at the very least be allowed to relax without worrying about the way they’re sitting.
Their Hair Has to Be One Color
Beyond the low pay and lack of benefits, cheerleaders also don’t have a lot of freedom in their physical appearance. One lawsuit brought against the Buffalo Bills revealed that cheerleaders were required to keep their hair one uniform color.
The one-color rule didn’t just ban girls from putting unnatural colors in their hair. They also weren’t allowed to have “trendy” roots or coloring, such as the ombre style. If they want to get even simple highlights, cheerleaders first have to get the color approved with their superiors.
Their Hair Can’t Be Dull
While the NFL controls what color cheerleaders hair must be, it also has rules for the upkeep of a particular hairstyle. If a cheerleader’s hair is determined to be too dull, they could face getting benched for the whole season.
To avoid this problem, cheerleaders have to visit salons on a regular basis and invest in products that will keep their hair shiny. All these expenses come out of their own pocket, and they still might not be enough to meet the high standards of the NFL.
They Can’t Change Their Appearance
When women are hired as cheerleaders for the NFL, they’re told that they can no longer change their appearance without approval from their boss. This includes not only dying their hair or getting a new piercing, but also smaller changes.
For example, some NFL cheerleaders were unable to cut their hair without express permission from their boss. They were also formally banned from developing new skin conditions, whether it was their fault or not, or they might risk being fired from the team.
They Can’t Use Slang
Most NFL teams don’t just control what their cheerleaders do on the field, they also have rules for how the cheerleaders must act when they’re off the field. The NFL argues that cheerleaders are representing the team at all times. As such, they’re not allowed to use slang, even when they’re off duty.
Slang words include “like,” “dude,” “ain’t,” “you’s guys,” and “I seen it.” All these wors are strictly banned form a cheerleaders vocabulary, and they can get in trouble if they’re caught using this prohibited slang.
They Always Have to Use Utensils
The NFL controls cheerleaders’ hair color and the words they can use, but it doesn’t stop there. Some teams also have guidelines for how cheerleaders should eat. One rule stipulates that cheerleaders should always use utensils when they’re eating. They should also match the pace of their food consumption to that of their companions.
Cheerleaders are actually told that they should never eat with their fingers, even if the food requires it. It looks like chicken strips and burgers are off the menu for cheerleaders!
They Can’t Touch-Up Their Makeup in Public
Part of the appeal of cheerleaders is their seemingly unattainable beauty, and it looks like the NFL knows it. Some NFL guidelines tell cheerleaders that they’re not supposed to touch-up their makeup, adjust their clothing, or fix anything about their physical appearance while they’re in public.
This rule revolves around the idea that cheerleaders are supposed to be perfect. If they have to fix something about their physical appearance in public, they’re admitting they’re not perfect. We wonder if the NFL knows that no one is truly perfect and mishaps sometimes happen.
They Can Only Post ‘Appropriate’ Photos Online
The NFL claims that cheerleaders are representing the team both on and off the field. That idea also lends itself to some pretty strict rules regarding their social media. Handbooks stipulate that cheerleaders are only allowed to post photos deemed “appropriate” by the NFL.
To make sure that all cheerleaders are following this rule, their social media is checked regularly. More than one cheerleader has lost her job for posting a photo the NFL didn’t like, though the actual guidelines are a bit vague and difficult to follow.
Their Hair Must Be ‘Glamorous’
When cheerleaders are at the games, they’re supposed to look their absolute best. To ensure their most fabulous appearance, cheerleading handbooks state that cheerleaders’ hair must be worn in a glamorous style. However, their hair also can’t use clips or tie backs to achieve this style.
The Buffalo Bills’ cheerleading handbook goes on to cover every aspect of a cheerleader’s hair, including the types of curls they should sport. Apparently, ringlets are not considered a “glamorous” style.
They Must Mimic the Appearance of a Celebrity
Sometimes a “glamorous” appearance just isn’t specific enough. Rather than outlining what cheerleaders can and can’t wear, some teams simply give the cheerleaders a picture of a celebrity and demand that they mimic that look.
Depending on what the celebrity looks like, the cheerleaders may have to undergo intense transformations to their appearance, including hair extensions and stage makeup. What’s more, they have to pay for all these physical alterations out of their own pocket.
Their Nails Must Be Professionally Maintained
NFL teams control a cheerleader’s appearance in all aspects, all the way down to their nails. Many teams require that the women’s nails be professionally maintained. Once again, cheerleaders must pay for this expense on their own.
Maintaining your nails at a professional salon isn’t cheap, especially if you’re going every few weeks to get them redone. Since fans can hardly see cheerleaders’ nails, this rule feels like an unnecessary financial burden on the women.
They Must Engage In Conversation
In their jobs, cheerleaders are required to talk to people, whether it be fans or other officials on the field. However, they can’t talk about just anything. Cheerleading handbooks also control what types of conversations cheerleaders can have.
According to these handbooks, cheerleaders can’t talk about the weather, as it’s considered “desperate.” They also can’t talk about themselves, make inappropriate jokes, or bring up personal issues. With rules like that, it’s a little hard to know what cheerleaders can talk about.
They Must Sell Calendars During the Games
Another aspect of a cheerleaders’ job involves posing for the calendar for their specific NFL team. It requires a big photo shoot where the girls look their best, but the job doesn’t stop there. Cheerleaders are also required to sell a certain amount of calendars during the games.
Some teams require their cheerleaders to sell 20 calendars per day. Others demand that the girls sell 50 per quarter of the game. No matter how ridiculous the expectations are, the cheerleaders are then fined if they don’t meet their quota and the cost of the calendars is deducted from their paychecks.
They Can Only Take Water Breaks During Offense
The Buffalo Bills aren’t the only team setting ridiculous standards for their cheerleaders. The Carolina Panthers also have some pretty strict rules they expect their girls to follow. While cheerleaders must stay standing for the entire game, they’re also limited in their water breaks.
The Panthers cheerleaders could only drink water when the players were on offense. No matter the physical demands of the job, cheerleaders had to abide by this rule or face the consequences.
They Must Wear Two-Piece Outfits On Tuesdays
Cheerleaders have a variety of uniforms, many of which are rather revealing. While girls don’t mind wearing these ensembles to the games, the Oakland Raiderettes took it one step further by demanding that their cheerleaders wear two-piece outfits to Tuesday practices.
The 2012 etiquette agreement demanded that women expose their midriff every Tuesday without fail. If the girls didn’t wear a two-piece outfit, they were fined $10.
They Must Maintain Their Hygiene
Asking that cheerleaders maintain their personal hygiene isn’t entirely absurd. Everyone should maintain their hygiene, especially if they’re working in close quarters with other people. However, cheerleading handbooks got a little too specific about what it meant to maintain personal hygiene.
The handbook for the Buffalo Bills’ cheerleaders demanded that the women change their feminine products every four hours, among other highly personal stipulations. While the rule itself is ridiculous, it’s also preposterous to consider how they would enforce such an outrageous mandate.
They Can’t Use Loofas or Sponges
When the cheerleaders’ handbooks address personal hygiene, certain teams take that as an opportunity to control their women even further. Some teams stipulated the cheerleaders weren’t allowed to use loofas or sponges because they’re known to carry bacteria.
While loofas and sponges might carry bacteria, it’s not an employer’s job to tell you what you can and can’t wash with. By controlling every aspect of a cheerleader’s hygiene process, the NFL way oversteps their bounds.
They Must Use Approved Products
As if the hygiene rules aren’t bad enough already, some NFL teams like the Buffalo Bills decided to dictate which products their cheerleaders could use.
In the Bills’ handbook, an entire section outlined the appropriate products for women to use when washing their private areas. They weren’t allowed to use anything scented or chemically-enhanced. While we’re not sure how this mandate was enforced, the girls could potentially face consequences if their bosses found that they weren’t following the rules.
They Can’t Wear Undergarments
On game days, most cheerleaders are prohibited from wearing undergarments with their skimpy ensemble. Instead, they have to go au-naturel for fear that their garments might pop out during a game.
To ensure that cheerleaders adjust to this rule, some teams forced their girls to go commando during practice. While the rule makes sense in some regards, it can’t be the most comfortable feeling for the cheerleaders.
They Have to Be Perky
While cheerleaders are usually not allowed to wear undergarments at all, there is one exception. If a cheerleaders’ breasts are “slouching,” they’re required to wear some sort of bra to perk them up.
The bra must be seamless and cannot be visible beneath the cheerleaders’ outfit. If their breasts are slouching, they could be benched, either for one game or for the entire season.
Their Face Expressions Must Be Positive
While demanding that the cheerleaders wear two-piece outfits on Tuesdays, the Raiderettes also instituted a rule that banned the girls from making negative facial expressions. The facial expressions were included in conjunction with rules that banned crude language and slang.
Apparently the cheerleaders have to look happy and energetic all the time, and the Raiderettes aren’t the only ones instituting this type of rule. The handbook for the Buffalo Bills’ cheerleaders has a similar mandate. Better get those smiles ready girls!
They Cannot Attend Parties With Players
After some of these rules came to light, a lawsuit was filed against the Raiderettes for the way they treat their cheerleaders. During the lawsuit, it came out that the guidebook also told the women they weren’t allowed to attend player parties.
Although the cheerleaders worked alongside the players multiple times per week, they weren’t allowed to socialize with them. The rule specified that players might use drugs at their parties, and such behavior would ruin a cheerleader’s reputation. To keep that from happening, the cheerleaders were banned from the parties altogether.
They Can’t Fraternize With Players
Cheerleaders aren’t allowed to attend parties with players, but some teams take this rule even further. Rather than keeping the cheerleaders and players separate only during their nights out, some teams demand that cheerleaders refrain from fraternizing with players altogether.
This rule extends to ridiculous situations. For example, if a cheerleader is eating in a restaurant and a player enters, the cheerleader must get up and leave. The players don’t have to abide by the same rules.
They Can’t Follow Players on Social Media
The rules regarding cheerleaders and football players never seem to end. When teams say the cheerleaders aren’t allowed to have any contact with the players, they really mean no contact. That includes social media.
If a player follows a cheerleader on social media, the cheerleader is the one who will get in trouble. While they can’t control what the players do, the cheerleader runs the risk of facing a fine or even being fired if a player follows her, whether or not she follows him back. If that situation arises, nothing happens to the player who created the problem.
They Must Find Out If a Player Is Married
While most handbooks discourage the cheerleaders from spending any time with the players, others state that if the girls want to move forward with a relationship, it’s their job to find out if the player is married.
The Raider handbook said that players will lie and say they’re not married, so girls should call the NFL office to confirm their marital status. Rather than asking the players to tell the truth, the handbook makes it the women’s job to avoid infidelity.
They Have a Strict Dress Code
It makes sense that NFL teams would control what their cheerleaders wear on the field. However, dress codes are also applied to cheerleaders even when they’re off duty.
Even if the cheerleaders aren’t working an event, they’re not allowed to wear sweatpants. The dress code rules extend much further, outlining an array of clothing items the women are and aren’t allowed to wear. If they’re off duty, however, what they wear should really be their business, and theirs alone.
They Must Avoid Hot Topics
Yes, there are still more things that cheerleaders aren’t allowed to talk about. Beyond their approved conversation topics during the games, cheerleaders also have to steer clear of “hot topics” in all settings. These banned topics include strong opinions, politics, and religion.
Basically, cheerleaders aren’t allowed to have an opinion, and they’re certainly not allowed to express the ones they do have. If they want to represent the team well, they have to give up everything they care about and simply keep the peace, whether they’re at the games or not.
They’re Regularly Weighed
Cheerleaders are supposed to be ultra-hot. After all, they’re like NFL jewelry. To ensure that cheerleaders stay in shape, they’re subject to regular weigh-ins to prove that they haven’t put on a few pounds.
The weigh-ins also give the leaders of the team a chance to look at the girls’ bodies. Beyond putting on a little weight, their bodies are not allowed to change in any significant way. These rules don’t even apply to a little extra padding – cheerleaders also can’t pack on muscle or lose too much of their definition for fear of consequences.
They Must Stay Within Three Pound of Their Ideal Weight
While some teams practice regular weigh-ins, others take their commitment to thinness one step further by instituting a three-pound rule. During each weigh-in, cheerleaders have to be within three pounds of their “ideal weight.”
A cheerleader’s ideal weight isn’t based on health and wellness data. Instead, it’s usually considered to be the weight the woman was at when she first auditioned. If she fails to meet that weight, she could be pulled from the next game or even benched for the entire season.
Their Bodies Can’t Jiggle
A cheerleader’s physical appearance and body is the main focus of many of the rules in the NFL. Some teams even go so far as to perform a “jiggle test” to ensure that the girls look impossibly good while they’re dancing.
During the jiggle test, the women have to do jumping jacks while their boss watches. If their bodies jiggle too much, they’re reprimanded and sometimes banned from performing at the games. The test was referred to as a “physique evaluation,” but the women knew it was just a chance to take girls who weren’t thin enough off the field.
They Can’t Bring the Wrong Pom-Poms
Pom-poms are the primary accessory of all cheerleaders. However, cheerleaders in the NFL have more than one set of pom-poms that match their different outfits for the games. While that might get confusing, the teams don’t react kindly if the cheerleaders get their pom-poms mixed up.
If cheerleaders bring the wrong pom-poms to the game, they face a fine. For cheerleaders, a simple mistake could end up being a costly one.
They Must Polish Their Boots Before Games
Cheerleaders can incur quite a few nasty fines on game day. Beyond bringing the right pom-poms, the women on the Oakland Raiderettes are also required to polish their boots before every game.
If the cheer director determines that the boots haven’t been polished enough, the woman at fault will have to pay yet another fine. She may also be banned from cheering on that particular day.
They’re Fined If They Forget Any Element of Their Outfit
Cheerleaders aren’t allowed to forget their pom-poms or any other element of their outfit. If a cheerleader forgets one essential item, she faces a fine.
This rule is somewhat sensible, but it’s also costly. The cheerleaders have so many items to remember that they’re bound to forget something every now and then. Considering their pay is so abysmally low, hefty fines on top of all their other expenses make it a financial burden to be a cheerleader.
They Can Lose Their Pay For Forgetting Something
Sometimes a fine is the best thing that can happen to a forgetful cheerleader. If one of the women forgets any part of her outfit, no matter how small, the director of the team can dock her entire day’s pay.
The cheerleader may still be required to perform, but she won’t receive anything for her efforts. Apparently, being forgetful isn’t even a remote possibility in the NFL.
They Have to Show Up to Unpaid Events
In general, cheerleaders are paid almost nothing. In fact, one study found that cheerleaders make less than anyone in the football stadium, including the vendors selling hot dogs. Beyond those low wages, however, cheerleaders are also required to show up to events where they don’t get paid at all.
At times, the NFL will schedule appearances and other events where cheerleaders are required to attend. Sometimes they receive no money at all for these events, but will still face consequences if they can’t be there.
They Can’t Eat in Uniform
Once cheerleaders put on their uniforms, they basically have to pretend that they’re not human. They’re not even allowed to eat in uniform, even though they’re often at the stadium for entire days.
If someone offers food to a cheerleader in uniform, they’re instructed to say that they aren’t hungry. They also can’t smoke or drink anything except water while in uniform. It sounds like the NFL expects them to be robots as soon as they slide into those skimpy outfits.
They Can’t Post Pictures in Uniform
With all the effort cheerleaders put into looking their best on game days, it makes sense that they would want to snap a few pictures for their social media. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible.
Cheerleaders aren’t allowed to post pictures in their uniforms on social media. Basically, the girls are required to invest thousands into their appearance, and they can’t even show off the final product.
They Can’t Complain or Gossip
While cheerleaders are abiding by these difficult rules, they can at least commiserate with their teammates, right? Wrong! Unfortunately, cheerleaders aren’t allowed to discuss the things they’re going through. Such conversations fall under the umbrella of complaints or gossip, which is strictly forbidden.
Cheerleaders are expected to take everything with a grain of salt and to avoid talking negatively about their experience or anyone else on the squad. With this rule, the expectation that the girls should be perfect angels continues to control their actions.
They Should Be Seen and Not Heard
The phrase “be seen and not heard” is generally considered to be outdated. Unfortunately, that mindset doesn’t apply to the NFL. While this phrase is often used to keep children in line, some NFL teams applied it to their cheerleaders.
Cheerleaders are expected to look nice, but to refrain from saying much of anything. They can’t express their opinions and generally should focus on looking good, rather than anything that might be going on inside their heads.
They Must Monitor Their Body Language
While cheerleaders are worrying about what comes out of their mouths, they also have to be concerned with what they’re not saying. On the Raiderettes and other NFL cheer squads, the girls were coached in body language. If they didn’t follow the rules of appropriate body language, they could get in serious trouble.
The women are essentially required to monitor every movement and action to ensure that it aligns with NFL guidelines. They can’t even rest without worrying about what their body language might be communicating.
They Have to Avoid Runs in Their Tights
Sometimes accidents happen. Getting an unfortunate run in your tights would generally be considered one of those accidents, but not in the NFL.
When you’re cheerleading and constantly moving and kicking your legs in tights, runs are a distinct possibility. Unfortunately, NFL teams don’t take too kindly to accidents. Some girls have been benched for an entire season because of a simple run in their tights, proving once again that their bosses aren’t the most understanding people.
They Can’t Chew Gum
The Seattle Seahawks cheerleading handbook included a section on chewing gum. The women weren’t allowed to chew gum unless the Sea Gal director said it was okay.
In comparison to some of the other rules on this list, this guideline is sensible. You don’t exactly want the women chewing gum while they’re yelling out cheers and flipping their heads around. However, the same rule also stated that the director could control when the women ate or drank, making the guideline much more about control rather than practicality.
They Can’t Eat Sweets
In addition to the mandatory weigh-ins, the leaders of the cheer team could also control what their women ate. Some choreographers were known for restricting the women’s diets based on their weight and then testing them on their ability to resist.
One cheerleader recounted a story where a choreographer restricted cookies from her diet, and the next day offered her a cookie just to ensure that she would say no. The move added insult to injury since the girl had already been reprimanded for her rising weight.
They Have to Follow a Certain Diet
Since cheerleaders have to achieve an “ideal weight,” some guidebooks offer regulations that will help to keep their bodies in check. One NFL handbook proclaimed that cheerleaders were only allowed to eat two meals per day, so they better “choose wisely.” The diet plan also limited the women to one slice of meat per day.
To keep in line with the expectations of the team, many cheerleaders survived on caffeine and weight loss supplements, rather than risking a weight gain by actually eating.
They Don’t Have a Say In Their Photoshoot
Cheerleaders who are in good standing with the team get the special privilege of being part of the team calendar. However, this privilege isn’t always as advantageous as it seems.
In 2013, the Washington Redskins took their cheerleaders to Costa Rica to shoot the calendar. After taking all their passports to ensure they couldn’t leave, the photographers forced the girls to pose nude. Not only were those moments captured on camera, but they were also observed by various sponsors of the Redskins who were allowed to watch the shoot.
They Must Understand They Are Expendable
This is less of a rule and more of an insult on the part of NFL teams. Amidst the handbook that outlines everything cheerleaders can and can’t do, the cheerleaders are also told that they’re not really important to the game.
One handbook explained that the fans will come to see football whether the cheerleaders are there or not. Therefore, cheerleaders are told that their jobs aren’t important and that they can be replaced at any time. In order to be part of the team, they have to acknowledge that they’re completely expendable.
They Must Wash Off Their Makeup Before Bed
Most dermatologists recommend that women wash off their makeup before bed. It’s supposed to be better for your skin and it helps to ensure a clean face free of breakouts. Rather than offering up this advice as a recommendation, however, NFL teams make it a part of cheerleaders’ jobs.
Some NFL handbooks state that cheerleaders must wash off their makeup before bed. By putting it in the handbook it becomes part of the job, creating an even more invasive environment for the women.
They Must Be Tan
On top of all the other ridiculous requirements for cheerleaders’ bodies, some NFL handbooks also mandate that the women must be tan. If they’re not tan naturally, they have to go to a tanning salon on their own time and try to match the skin tone of their teammates.
Of course, the tans must then be maintained. It’s just another expense that cheerleaders are never reimbursed for, and they could face consequences if they choose not to follow through with their fake tanning.
Their Teeth Must Be White
Cheerleaders are checked from top to bottom, particularly before they appear at games or events. Much like a horse, some NFL teams also choose to examine their cheerleaders’ teeth.
If a woman’s teeth aren’t white enough, the team can demand that they get their teeth whitened. This expensive procedure certainly isn’t reimbursed and a failure to come back with glowing teeth could result in a suspension.
They Can’t Wear Their Uniform Outside of the Stadium
Even though cheerleaders buy their own uniforms, the NFL still controls when they can and can’t wear them. Some NFL handbooks tell cheerleaders that they’re not allowed to wear their uniforms outside of the stadium.
However, the handbook also stipulates that cheerleaders aren’t allowed to be in the stadium in their regular clothes. Basically, the cheerleaders must change once the game ends and then head home. If you thought they could stick around and celebrate their hard work, you thought wrong.
They Must Hide Piercings and Tattoos
The idea of covering up piercings and tattoos in the workplace certainly isn’t new. However, most employees wear far more clothes than cheerleaders. Despite their often skimpy outfits, many NFL cheerleaders are required to cover up any piercings and tattoos on game day.
Cheerleaders with excessive body jewelry or tattoos may not get hired in the first place. If they do get hired, they’re required to cover their tattoos with makeup and remove any visible piercings. To ensure they’re complying with the rules, the girls must arrive early to have their bodies checked before the game.
They Can’t Disagree With Authority
Cheerleading handbooks make it clear that whatever the people on top say is the law. The cheerleaders aren’t allowed to disagree with their superiors, no matter how ridiculous their demands might be.
In some cases, cheerleaders have been harassed at events and forced to entertain guests in a very escort-like setting. If women spoke out about their poor treatment, they were often fired. The cheerleaders aren’t allowed to disobey or put forth their own opinions, meaning they’re required to simply fall in line or lose their jobs.
They Must Show Up For Work Five Hours Before Kickoff
While the football players are on the field, cheerleaders also have a long day. They’re not allowed to sit down and they don’t have any replacements, so they’re usually up and moving for the entirety of the game, which often lasts three hours or more.
While that’s already a hefty commitment, some NFL teams like the Carolina Panthers require their cheerleaders to arrive five hours before kickoff. That extends their workday to seven or more hours, most of which is spent on their feet.
They Can’t Say They’re Affiliated With the Team
NFL teams are very serious about how they’re represented in public. While certain teams demand that their cheerleaders act in a certain way, others don’t want the cheerleaders associated with the team at all for fear that they might say something that reflects poorly on the organization.
The San Francisco 49ers told their cheerleaders that they couldn’t tell anyone they were part of the team. Think about that – all that work to become a professional cheerleader and you can’t even tell anyone what your job is.
They Must Regularly Exercise
Cheerleading is a big workout in itself. However, showing up to the constant practices isn’t enough according to the NFL. Many NFL teams demand that their cheerleaders exercise regularly outside of normal practices.
To meet this guideline, the cheerleaders have to pay for gym memberships. It’s yet another bill they have to cover in order to earn their spot of the team.
They Must Accept Low Wages
NFL cheerleaders are strictly forbidden from complaints of any kind, including complaints about their wages. If they do complain, they’ll probably be fired and it’s unlikely they’ll ever feel comfortable enough to ask for a raise.
This mindset really affects the cheerleaders because they’re paid almost nothing. After all the expenses that go into being a cheerleader are deducted, studies found that some girls make as little as $2.85 an hour. Some girls never break even and end up spending much more than they make just to stay on the team.
They Must Shave In a Certain Way
The invasive rules never seem to end. After being told what they can and can’t wash with, some cheerleader handbooks also outline how exactly the women should shave.
The rules for shaving don’t even make any sense. It’s better to allow the women to shave in a way that works for their bodies. Most grown adults know how to shave, and being forced to shave in a certain way for your job just isn’t okay.
They Have to Buy Their Own Calendar
Imagine, your job requires you to pose for the annual calendar. But the ridiculous part is that you don’t get your own free copy. Even though there wouldn’t be a calendar without your face joining the rest of the cheerleading squad, you still have to cough up some cash for your own copy.
Surely, letting NFL cheerleaders keep a free copy would be a token of goodwill, but that goodwill doesn’t apply to cheerleaders. The worst part is they can’t even frown in their photoshoots. While some of us are jealous that we’re not the poster girl of the NFL, maybe it just goes to show that the grass isn’t green on the other side – especially, the NFL side-lines.
They Can’t Work as Exotic Dancers
Though working as an exotic dancer isn’t the most elegant way to make ends meet. And though plenty of people will have something to say about the job, it does pay the bills. According to Payscale, an average exotic dancer earns $22.41. That’s more than double the average wages of an NFL cheerleader.
A talented NFL cheerleader might be tempted to work part-time as an exotic dancer. After all, she is a dancer by trade and she’s got the looks. An NFL cheerleader might consider exotic dancing as a way of subsidizing her income, but the moment she does, she’d be kicked to the curb for so much as doing a jiggle on stage. That’s right – exotic dancing is against the NFL’s cheerleading rules.
No Players’ Autographs/Photos
If you’re donning an NFL team’s cheerleading uniform, attend all practices, and always at the pitch for Sunday showdowns, you’d think you’d be first in line for the star quarterback’s autograph. The only spanner in the works here is that getting an NFL player’s autograph is against NFL cheerleading rules. That’s right. Even if you’re a team representative, you can’t have your favorite player’s autograph.
While there’s plenty of glitz and glamor on the field side-lines, behind the scenes there aren’t all that many perks to being a cheerleader. Their skimpy uniforms don’t generally come with pockets so at least there’s an upside to being an NFL cheerleader – you won’t be burdened carrying around a pen and piece of paper as you’re not getting any signatures.
No Swimwear Contests
Making the cut as an NFL cheerleader means you get a lot of bragging rights. Being an NFL cheerleader, you get to tell everyone all about it and show off your good looks to the world. Except, that you can’t simply bare it all. NFL cheerleaders are forbidden from taking part in swimsuit competitions. Though the NFL is strict about these guidelines, that doesn’t mean that some cheerleaders don’t take their chances.
In 2021, former Baltimore Raiders cheerleader, Summer Wilson, was a finalist for that year’s edition of “Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition.” Of course, Wilson didn’t dare go for the opportunity during her heyday – that would have been an instant dismissal. But we can’t blame the former cheerleader for joining “Sports Illustrated” when the opportunity came her way.
Do Not Become the Topic of Conversation in the Locker Room
With NFL regulations stating that cheerleaders need to be present at every rehearsal, every match, and even show up for unpaid events, it means these ladies will spend a lot of time together. However, one rule that NFL officials have clearly outlined is “Do Not Become the Topic of Conversation in the Locker Room.”
While it is not clear which locker room is it’s probably safest to avoid your name coming up at all. What should make cheerleaders even more on edge is that NFL officials say that hear everything that’s said in the locker room. Even though we’re sure these ladies form tight bonds, it’s best not to go into too much detail in the locker room. The walls really do seem to have ears.
No Soup Slurping
Let’s be honest. Every now and then, we all like a good slurping. Of course, it’s not good etiquette but how are you supposed to eat hot soup from a spoon without every now and then making a slurping sound? The person who’d know all about soup-eating etiquette would be NFL cheerleaders. They’re completely forbidden from slurping soup.
But it goes further than that. Former Bills’ cheerleader, Alyssa U, said NFL cheerleaders are given strict dining rules for eating soup. In short, they need to dip the spoon in until it’s two-thirds full and sip the soup from the side of the spoon to avoid spilling it onto the clothes. Somehow, we think picking up the bowl and downing it in one go will probably not sit well with NFL officials.
The NFL handbook goes to great lengths to explain what NFL cheerleaders should wear. Even though most companies will not discuss anything below the belt, we can say that the NFL has no such qualms. The NFL mentions that cheerleaders can’t wear underwear but can wear pantyhose. While practicing or dancing around in pantyhose without underwear sounds incredibly uncomfortable, the rules get even more uncomfortable.
Naturally, NFL cheerleaders have to wear skin-toned hosiery. The NFL guidelines even mention the names of pantyhose brands the cheerleaders should wear. We imagine that the type of acceptable hosiery for NFL cheerleaders doesn’t come cheap, like everything else that makes up their uniform.
One of the perks of being an NFL cheerleader is that you’d have a great social life. Well, you better hope that your social circle has nothing to do with alcohol. NFL guidelines forbid cheerleaders from attending events where alcohol is served. Of course, it all boils down to reputation. Reputation is everything for NFL cheerleaders.
That means even champagne breakfasts are out. Does that mean that weddings are also off-limits? The ironic part is that alcohol is allowed to be consumed at NFL games, but there’s nothing forbidding cheerleaders from being present there – and that’s their place of work. Someone clearly didn’t think this rule completely through.
No Tasteless Films
For some, a Quentin Tarantino film might be considered tasteless. For others even a Christopher Nolan film might also be described as such – after the appearance of a short, racy scene in “Oppenheimer.” Though Nolan’s generally been squeaky clean in most of his directing career, his recent biopic might just get labeled as “tasteless.”
And if you’re the lucky NFL cheerleader to land a role in such a film, then, you’d have a big decision to make. That’s because the NFL forbids cheerleaders from starring in tasteless films. Considering that taste differs from person to person, we’re not exactly sure what makes the list of acceptable movies for the NFL. Think again, if you’re that cheerleader looking for your big break in Hollywood.
Restrictions on Nail Polish
Not only does the NFL expect salon-quality nails from cheerleaders, but this board also goes as far as telling these ladies what color their nails are allowed to be. According to Hannah Riley, the Buffalo Jills are told that their nails either must be in French-manicure style or have them painted with a natural polish color.
The Buffalo Jills must abide by these rules not only when they’re performing on the pitch during games, but also when they’re off duty. Of course, they can still go crazy and wear shocking pink nail polish in the comfort of their own homes. But confining your shocking pink nails to the home seems to defeat the whole purpose of having your nails done in the first place.
They Must Block NFL Players
Your socializing options are extremely limited as an NFL cheerleader. Of course, you can be bosom buddies with all your cheerleading co-workers. But if you feel like hanging out with one of the boys, there’s no opportunity for friendship. According to Vox, Saintsations (a.k.a Saints cheerleaders) must not only block Saints players but all NFL players – even if they go by different aliases and pseudonyms on social media.
The crazy part is that there are roughly 2,000 NFL players. Blocking every player on each social media platform and communication app takes a lot of time. Let’s hope they’re compensated for the trouble. Again, this is the NFL we’re speaking about so there’s probably even less chance that they are paid for overtime.
Don’t Let Attention “Go to Your Head”
This is quite a strange rule, but NFL cheerleaders mustn’t let all the attention they get go to their heads. Of course, beautiful women like these dancing at big sporting events are likely to get loads of attention as these are typically male-dominated events. But these leading ladies need to make sure they don’t become too vain with the attention coming their way.
They need to remain polite and modest. This rule also entails NFL cheerleaders not seeking out too much attention, especially from players. Even if NFL players want to chat and it’d be nice to get some interest from players, this is a big no-no with NFL officials.
They Need to Pay for Uniform Maintenance and Repairs
Some NFL cheerleaders like the Seattle Seahawks don’t have to buy their own uniforms, but that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook exactly. The Seattle Sea Gals are responsible for keeping their uniforms in pristine condition. If a uniform has to be mended or maintained, the buck stops with the Sea Gal.
It’s coming out of her pocket, even though NFL cheerleading uniforms don’t generally have pockets. Considering that these ladies do a lot of dancing and all kinds of acrobatics in uniform, we’re sure plenty of Sea Gals have paid a pretty penny keeping their uniforms up to scratch.
They Can’t Talk About Themselves
If you’re super social, then being an NFL cheerleader might be the perfect job for you. But, if your favorite thing to speak about is yourself, then you should have second thoughts about applying for this job. NFL guidelines require cheerleaders to engage in conversation, except they can’t talk about themselves all that much.
Even speaking about their personal lives is unacceptable. In fact, cheerleaders should try to refrain from overusing pronouns like “I” and “me.” Of course, a lot of people love talking about “me, me, me,” but the people you’d least expect this from are cheerleaders. They’re simply not allowed to indulge in me-me-me-conversations.
Hair Must Be Appear Natural
NFL cheerleaders must find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They’re required to have stunning and glamorous hair but to achieve this look, they can’t use any artificial products, including clips or ties. Though they can use different products to achieve this look of having “glamorous” hair their hair still has to look natural.
If they use too much product, their hair will look wet or “crunchy.” What’s more, NFL cheerleaders are discouraged from applying too much spray or over-styling their hair. While most of us ordinary people know how irritating bad-hair days are, at least, if we turn up for work with our hair gelled up, our jobs aren’t on the line. Bad hair days for cheerleaders must be complete nightmares.
Coughing and Sneezing
Everyone gets sick. Even cheerleaders get sick. When they get sick, regular rules don’t apply. If a cheerleader is dancing on the sidelines and has no tissues in sight, NFL guidelines recommend she sneeze or cough into her arm. As gross as it is, this is one of the ways to make sure that illnesses don’t spread.
But this is taking personal hygiene rules a bit too far. On top of that, even after blowing their noses, NFL guidelines expect cheerleaders to wash their hands. Let’s just hope these ladies don’t regularly come down with colds and Flu because there’s bound to be more handwashing going on than dancing.
Natural Shades & Roots
Let’s just face it. NFL rules for cheerleaders’ hair alone are insane. Just the rules for doing their hair are enough to drive anyone mad. Writer Amanda Hess looked into the NFL guidelines for cheerleaders. The writer found out that Buffalo Jills are allowed to dye their hair but only natural shades were acceptable.
If you’re a cheerleader who likes daring shades, forget about it. Jet black and platinum blond shades are out. On top of that, their roots are expected to be professionally maintained at all times, so if one of these ladies is thinking of growing her dyed hair out, she should think again. Not maintaining one’s roots is against NFL cheerleading policies.
Extension Must Be Invisible
Honestly, hair extensions have been the life hack women have been waiting for. Considering that NFL cheerleaders need to have awesome hair all the time, hair extensions have made their lives a lot easier. But hair extensions come with their own kinds of problems. NFL cheerleaders aren’t allowed to have these kinds of problems.
Extension clips and tracks should never be visible. Even if you’re doing a whole lot of dancing and acrobatics on the football field, you need to make sure those tracks and clips are hidden from the world. If extensions are done right, they won’t make a sneaky appearance. The one thing to know all about your recent trip to the salon is your back account because professional hair extensions don’t come cheap.
In all honesty, it seems like NFL guidelines wish to control every strand of hair on cheerleaders’ bodies. Even though there are countless rules dictating what a cheerleader can and can’t do with her hair, the rules don’t stop there. NFL officials even have a say on cheerleaders’ eyebrows. First off, eyebrows must be a natural color and must closely match the cheerleader’s hair color.
Second, they must have a natural arch. If you’re an aspiring NFL cheerleader who doesn’t have a natural arch, you’re not going to make the cut because cheerleaders can’t use eyebrow pencils. That means you just have to hope and pray your eyebrows have a beautifully, natural arch – or know a good salon.
With the countless rules that NFL cheerleaders have to abide by, it’s unsurprising that the rules even dictate what jewelry these ladies are allowed to have. According to the guidelines for Buffalo Jills, only one piercing is permitted in each ear. When in uniform or during auditions, no other piercings are allowed. The rules on jewelry don’t stop there.
NFL cheerleaders have some freedom when it comes to jewelry, but we can imagine it's nothing these women will sing and dance about. When in uniform or during auditions, the only other acceptable jewelry are engagement and wedding rings. Sadly, one department you won’t catch NFL cheerleaders shopping at is the jewelry department.