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How Much Do NFL Cheerleaders Make?

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Published August 2, 2023
7 min read

NFL cheerleaders can be seen on any given Sunday, just like the 53 players and members of the coaching staff of all 32 franchises. Their jobs include everything from choreographed dance routines to sideline cheers, meeting fans, and much more.

Cheerleaders first joined the NFL ranks in 1954 and are now a part of every team. But there’s much more that goes into making the cut than many believe.

Before we answer the question “How much do NFL cheerleaders make,” let’s understand what it takes to be an NFL cheerleader.

NFL Cheerleaders Salary

A Day in the Life of an NFL Cheerleader

The Baltimore Colts were the first team to employ cheerleaders. They were part of the Baltimore Marching Colts, which was a marching band for the team.

In 1960, the Dallas Cowboys’ general manager—a successful businessman in the television industry—hired professional models to patrol the sidelines during games. The idea was short-lived because hours of standing in hundred-degree heat did not treat the models well.

From 1961-71, high school students from the Dallas area were enlisted to lead the on-field cheering section for “America’s Team.” Then, in 1972, the Cowboys finally had the idea to employ an organized, choreographed cheer team that is what football fans think of today when they hear the word “cheerleaders.”

Many cheerleaders today only work the NFL gig as a part-time job and either were or are part of their college’s cheer team. That is not a prerequisite to the job but gives them a leg up.

Cheerleading is a passion that, for many, begins in childhood. Cheerleading teams typically form in middle and high school, and kids have the opportunity to join cheer and dance groups outside of school from the time they are very young.

But just because someone is granted the opportunity to perform during NFL games does not mean that their position is set in stone or that they have incurred enough sweat equity to kick their feet up. Just like the players, cheerleaders are expected to show up hours before the game to rehearse their routines and get their rhythm before the stadium fills up with fans.

Cheerleaders rarely travel with the team to away games but are expected to be ready at all home events. Famous squads, like the Cowboys’, will also make international trips because of their worldwide recognition and popularity.

How to Become an NFL Cheerleader

Having a natural ability to bust a move or catch the beat is not enough to qualify a candidate to become an NFL cheerleader. The ideal candidates must be professional, high-energy, attentive, athletic, and committed.

Requirements will vary by team, but the general expectation is that every prospect have a high school-level form of education, the ability to be at every home game from September to February (including potential playoff games), and the willingness to attend weekly practices and team events. They must also pass standard workplace screenings such as background checks and drug tests.

Cheerleaders can submit an audition tape online. They will want to show off their best moves and skills, and if the team is interested, they will be invited for an in-person try-out. Here, the candidate—along with other interested parties that were invited in—will perform a variety of dances and tumbling moves.

If the team interview goes well, the candidate will be invited back to work out with the coaching staff. The final step will be to perform a routine in front of the entire team, and if that goes well, the candidate may be offered a spot on the cheer squad.

How Much Do NFL Cheerleaders Make?

The almighty question. Assuming the cheerleader has passed all of the required steps and is elevated to the team’s official cheer squad, they will be entitled to a certain amount of pay—that amount varies, but according to ESPN, the average cheerleader makes about $150 per game and $50-75 per public appearance.

Following the NFL’s 17-game schedule, NFL cheerleaders make $1,200-1,350 per NFL season from games. 10 public appearances during the season would also bring in about another $500-750, bringing the total for an entire season to just about $2,000. 

That’s not a very large salary, which is why many cheerleaders work other jobs. On the bright side, the cheer team gets free tickets to home games, access to VIP areas and events, free travel, discounts on team gear, and the chance to represent a billion-dollar industry.

Many cheerleaders are also entered into networking groups that unlock other opportunities, whether that be modeling, acting, dancing, or something else.

So, long story short, cheering in the NFL is not enough to provide a stable yearly income. But it is still considered the best opportunity in the world of cheerleading and can create many great opportunities.

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Grant Mitchell

538 Articles

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.

In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.

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