When people think of NFL athletes, they probably think of the skills and drive needed to play football. But it's no secret that players can make a lot of money. Whether that comes from actually playing the game, sponsorships, or other kinds of business opportunities, many NFL players are living lives so many of us can only dream of. In fact, according to Investopedia, the industry was estimated to have made over $15 billion during the 2019 season.
But that's not the case for everyone on the field. So, how much do NFL cheerleaders make? It turns out, not much, especially in comparison to big names in the industry. Although some may not consider them athletes, there's no denying that what cheerleaders do takes some serious skill.
How much do NFL cheerleaders make?
Unfortunately, NFL cheerleaders do not get paid well. But how little or how much cheerleaders make depends on where they are in their career. Sharon R. Vinick, an attorney at Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, told CNN Sports that payment can range anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000.
A 2021 documentary called A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem discusses this issue with former cheerleader Lacy Thibodeaux-Fields.
While Lacy had previously enjoyed being a cheerleader for the NBA's Golden State Warriors, things changed when she went to the NFL and started working with the Raiderettes. She told CNN Sports that she wasn't paid for practices or community appearances, yet was expected to pay for things like her uniform and keeping up her appearance.
"There are lots of jobs that people would do for free, but they shouldn't have to just because it's their passion or their dream," she said.
Some NFL Cheerleaders have sued to get paid.
In 2018, former cheerleader Erica Wilkins sued the Dallas Cowboys for the hours she worked, including practices, training, rehearsals, and filming for the CMT show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, as well as for the times she posted on social media, according to a lawsuit obtained by The Dallas Observer.
The lawsuit claimed that Erica had worked more than 40 hours a week and had not been paid overtime. The team's mascot was paid $65,000 a year while she had been paid less than $10,000 each year from 2014 through 2017. According to AS USA, this resulted in the Cowboys increasing the cheerleaders' pay from $9 an hour to $12 an hour, and bumping the game-day pay from $200 to $400.
According to CNN Sports, Lacy ended up suing the then-Oakland Raiders in 2014 for wage theft and illegal employment practices. The Raiders settled for $1.25 million in Sept. 2014 and paid back wages to cheerleaders who worked from 2010 through 2014. They also increased the mandatory pay for events to $9 per hour, which was the minimum wage at the time. Per CNN Sports, the cheerleaders' new hourly wage was more than double what they'd been paid previously.
Lacy was also paid another $10,000 because she was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
You can watch A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem on Prime Video and Apple TV.