NFL

How much do the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders make?

The Baltimore Colts were the first team to introduce cheerleaders at games in 1954 and they havbe become an integral part of the NFL over the last 60 years.

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How much do the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders make?
TOM PENNINGTON AFP

Cheerleaders have been a fixture in the NFL for over 60 years, since the 1954 season when the Baltimore Colts became the first team to introduce them at games. Since then, the practice of game day cheerleaders has evolved to become an integral part of the NFL with cheerleaders becoming a prominent part of marketing and merchandising, and many regularly performing overseas for US Armed Forces personnel through the United States Organizations Inc.

However, despite the prominence of cheerleading in the NFL there has traditionally been a huge disparity in terms of pay. According to figures compiled by Sportskeeda, on average junior cheerleaders make less per year ($20,000) than a matchday mascot ($25,000) and considerably less than an NFL waterboy ($53,000). The standard pay for a cheerleader is $150 per home game and around $50-75 for public appearances on behalf of the franchise, which can include school visits, conferences and corporate events.

Some cheerleaders are professional, and they can make up to $75,000 a year according to various reports, but the majority are not and are either in college or have just graduated. Many only remain in the NFL for a few years and those that do earn the higher salaries generally have years of experience and are in senior positions within the cheerleading squad, and may also have represented several different teams. In general, senior cheerleaders receive larger matchday fees than rookies and can also earn more in bonuses.

In 2021, and despite the incorporation in recent years of male squad members, cheerleading is not without its detractors and of the 32 NFL teams participating this season seven will not include a cheerleading squad: Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, and Pittsburgh Steelers, although the Packers often use a collegiate cheerleading team at home games.

Erica Wilkins lawsuit against Cowboys

Of the teams that do have cheerleaders, arguably the most famous are the Dallas CowboysErica Wilkins sued the franchise in 2018 for not getting paid for all the hours she worked during a 40-hour week and for unpaid overtime, noting that the Cowboys mascot Rowdy was paid considerably more.

During her four years as a Cowboys cheerleader, the most Wilkins earned in a year was $16,500, compared to the $65,000 Rowdy reportedly took home. She also stated that she was not paid for the filming of the reality television show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, which has run for 15 seasons.

As a result of the lawsuit, the Cowboys increased the amount they pay cheerleaders ahead of the 2019 season from $8 an hour to $12, and doubled game-day pay from $200 to $400.