The NFL announced this weekend a new program that is designed to enhance a fan’s experience when they attend a game. The experience comes in the form of a new App that gives season ticket holders access to a wide range of benefits. They are provided with a way to bypass the admission line, as well as opportunities to purchase merchandise without dealing with the crowds. In addition, they are given chances to participate in events on the field, before and after a game, such as kicking field goals and meeting mascots. The most attractive feature of the new App is the “dial a cheerleader” option. Fans can order their favorite girl right to their seat for a one-on-one experience. On paper, this idea looks and sounds amazing. In reality, it is just another way the National Football League has designed to exploit their most attractive feature. Once again, cheerleaders will be taken advantage of during NFL games next season.
On the surface, the life of an NFL cheerleader seems very glamorous. They spend their weekends entertaining millions of fans, receiving plenty of exposure and attention that could go a long way toward furthering their careers. The downside of the system, however, is very ugly indeed. The average salary for an NFL cheerleader is less than $100 a game. Most people would find that to be a good days work for 3-4 hours of entertaining. However, you must take in to account all of the time it takes for these women to practice and prepare themselves for a game. In addition, they are often required to make several non-paid appearances each year to help support and promote the team. These paychecks are not even close to being considered a sustainable income. At best, an NFL cheerleader makes about $1500 for an entire season. In contrast, most NFL mascots make more than $20,00 a year and receive medical benefits.
The worst part of this equation is the ridiculous amounts of money that the NFL makes off of these exploited women. Calendars, websites, and just fans who flock to the games to watch the girls alone is a huge part of the revenue stream for the NFL. The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders made over $1 million for the team last year, but did not see a single penny of that money for themselves. The cheerleaders can use their status to book private gigs and make money on the side, but even that income is few and far between. The position looks good on a resume too, but that does not mean that they are not entitled to fair compensation for their dedication and hard work.
Aside from the exploitation that already exists, the NFL has decided to take advantage of their cheerleaders even more heading in to next season’s slate of games. They are planning on practically “pimping” out their cheerleaders to the highest bidder. On the surface, giving a fan an opportunity to meet their favorite crowd pleaser seems like an awesome experience. The reality, however, is that a majority of the time, a group of drunk, excited fans will probably pool their money together to receive a personal visit. Introducing a half-naked girl to a group of intoxicated fans just seems like a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, the safety of the girls must also be addressed. It can be assumed that the cheerleaders would be escorted back and forth to the fan’s seat by security, but that security cannot follow them 24/7. Fans can already become too obsessed with the ladies on the field, now that they are given the chance to meet them one-on-one, some of those obsessions could turn dangerous.
Most of the women who are cheerleaders in the NFL are doing so for the experience itself. Yet that experience is becoming more and more exploited as time goes on. Each year that passes, these women are more over-worked and underpaid, and the NFL continues to be okay with this form of indentured servitude. College players have banded together to form a union to protect themselves, maybe it is time for cheerleaders to do the same. Until they do, the NFL will continue to take advantage of their cheerleaders game after game, both next season, as well as the ones to come.
Commentary by Chris Chisam