Cheerleaders have been a part of the sports experience since the 1950’s. There are commonly seen with NFL and NBA teams. Cheerleaders have become popular in more ways than supporting their team on the sidelines. They often make public appearances to represent their team such as charity and promotional events, as well as, participate in military appreciation tours overseas.
Dancing and cheering at the professional level (and really any level) is a time-consuming job but it is still considered a part time job for most; therefore, most professional-level cheerleaders/dancers have either another part-time job or a full-time career. They hold jobs in a manifold of fields or are students earning various degrees. For example, social media managers, teachers, IT professionals, business owners, teachers, sales rep, lawyers, modeling, nurses etc. Some cheerleaders take their dance experience into similar career fields such as coaching high school or college dance teams. There are many teams that require their cheerleaders to have a full-time “job” before joining the team, this includes being a full-time college students or being a stay at home mom (which is definitely a full time job!).
In addition to cheerleaders supporting their teams and showcasing entertaining dance talent, they are trained to be ambassadors for their organization and participate in many events around the world. They attend press conferences, interviews, appearances, etc. and answer questions to market their team. Their goal when off the field is to create a strong connection with their community and fans of the team they cheer for. For example, they often perform at charity events for their hometown, fundraisers for local communities, and more. Cheerleaders/dancers are one of the biggest entertainment groups that regularly perform for the United States Armed Forces.
A question that is commonly asked is, “What is the salary of professional cheerleaders?” This is a hard question to answer because it varies across teams. Due to lawsuits, most teams do now pay their entertainment team members at least minimum wage for their time at practice, games, and appearances. There are still teams that have dance/cheer programs on a volunteer basis where they utilize sponsors to supplement the cost of uniforms, shoes, etc. Keep in mind that most teams lay out and share the pay details to all dancers/cheerleaders via a contract prior to starting the season. The performer will read the contract and sign it, agreeing to the pay.
Based on our research… The pay wage is divided into two main categories, professional and supporting cheerleaders. Professionals are those who have the most years of experience and are in contract with the team. Supporting cheerleaders are those who are not on the team full time and are substitutes in case there is a member sick or injured. In most cases the support cheerleaders that show the best performance and talent are offered contracts with the teams at the end of the season, increasing their wages earned.
Cheerleaders/dancers in the NFL are paid based on hourly wages and/or game day fees. Professionals that are in contract with teams make at least minimum wage up to $15 – $20 an hour. For some teams, on game days they could earn a wage of $500 per game…. Calculating to about $5000 a season, if there are 10 regular season home games. However, there are reports that some professional cheerleaders having a yearly salary of $75,000. I’m not sure which teams these are… LOL!!
Supporting cheerleaders make $5- $9 an hour when filling in, this gives them a yearly salary of $20,000 and a chance to receive a contract. If their team makes the playoffs or super bowl they earn higher wages per match. Since they also have various public events they attend, they get around $50 – $150 per appearance.
Over the years cheerleaders have fought and pushed their way to ensure they are getting equal and the appropriate pay that matches their talent and efforts. Two cheerleaders from the Oakland Raiders got together to file a class-action lawsuit stating that their company failed to pay them minimum wage, withheld wages for months, and refused to reimburse cheerleaders for their business expenses. They won the case and the cheerleaders acquired a $1.25-million settlement from their team. Since speaking out there have been more cases pending against these NFL teams; Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This lawsuit was crucial to improving the wages for any professional cheerleader, it ensured that they would get paid with hourly wages instead of the end of the season.
Aside from NFL cheerleaders, the NBA also has cheerleaders for just about every team. They are there to cheer on the team and entertain fans with dance routines and get the energy pumping throughout the arena. When they are off the court they often perform at charity events and other community functions. NBA cheerleaders average wage is $75 – $150 for each game. Similar to the NFL, they also get paid for public appearances and different events, their average wages are $50- $100 per special event.
The NHL features cheerleaders and fans often refer to them as the “Ice Girls”. They are talented dancers and put in hours of effort into their routines. These dancers are put into two categories, professional and rookie. Their pay wages vary depending on if it’s a home or away game. The average they get paid is $450 – $500 depending on the matches.
If the cheerleaders are a part of a popular organization, this means they receive better compensation for each game. For example, teams such as The Boston Celtics, La Lakers, and other well known teams give their cheerleaders an average of $400 – $650 a game or events.
Due to the cheerleaders’ call to action to make sure they are getting paid appropriately, they have changed the pay wage and the treatment of cheerleaders all throughout the sports community. All of the data of recent years of wages for cheerleaders are improving year by year and shows the hard work of the dancers is paying off and they are receiving what they deserve.
Besides the NBA and NFL there are other dance related jobs such as broadway dancers. These dancers have a range of specialty dancing and are extremely talented. The average dancer in the US earns an average of $25 an hour, the salary depends on the company and the location. For example, the world known Rockettes, a popular dance team in New York City makes on average $1,500 a week and make a yearly salary of $37,000.
So… professional cheerleader salaries or professional dancer salaries can range from volunteer work to
Pro Cheer/Dance has become a sport and activity loved by many, it comes with many benefits and rare opportunities. Professional cheerleaders have said it showed them they could achieve anything they put their mind to, make lifelong friends, build professional relationships, and travel with the teams.
For me personally, it was never about the money. When I first started dancing on the pro-level, the organization was a non profit organization so we didn’t get paid. I knew that going in to it, I agreed to it… and loved every second of my experience. Should professional cheerleaders and dancers get paid, YES! We bring so much to the game day experience… But it’s not always about the money. Afterall, I’m a business woman and entrepreneur… I make my own money doing my own thing! My “cheer money” was the cherry on top!