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How much money do NFL referees and cheerleaders make?

Players make the difference on the football field, but referees and cheerleaders also play an important role in the NFL. How much do they get paid?

Players make the difference on the football field, but referees and cheerleaders also play an important role in the NFL. How much do they get paid?
John McCoyGetty

Seven officials are on the field during professional and most college football games. Even if most of the pressure is on players, referees have a crucial role in the game and specific duties depending on each of their positions.

Those positions include: referee (which is the lead member of the officiating team), umpire, head linesman (or down judge), line judge, field judge (or back umpire), side judge, back judge, and center judge.

Meanwhile, cheerleaders have been a part of the gameday experience since 1954. 26 of the 32 NFL teams have cheerleaders performing during their home games.

If they might not have a direct impact on the game, they have had to pass several auditions among many candidates (application, preliminary audition, semi-final audition, personal interview, written test and final talent auditions), they have to stick to some restrictions and demands (have a full-time job elsewhere or be a full-time student) and many events are mandated for them (photoshoots, etc).

How much do referees get paid?

Depending on role and seniority, pay for the NFL officials changes, but most of them earn a considerable amount of money. The NFL referees also earn a substantial pension plan on top of a base salary.

Officially, an NFL referee’s salary is undisclosed. However, it can be estimated based on the pay figures in the expired NFL CBA. An NFL referee earned an average of $205,000 starting in 2019.

The league pays its officials a flat-base rate plus a payment per game. Typically, on multiplying by 16 through the year, one can calculate in-season game check totals. The average official banks a six-figure salary in part-time work through the season.

Officials also attend practices to improve their in-season performances by gaining a better understanding of existing rules and new regulations, which justifies the base salary. Referees also receive large bonuses for officiating postseason games.

How much do cheerleaders get paid?

NFL cheerleaders, on the other hand, are not paid very well. Until recent times, some teams were paying them less than the minimum wage, although over the past few years things have changed and their wages have been raised. Still, their salary is quite low compared to those of the players or other NFL staff.

Different media published the common rate of pay for NFL cheerleaders is $150 each game day and $50-75 per public appearance, which comes out to about $22,500 per year.

One former cheerleader revealed to Cosmopolitan that she made just $3000 during a season but it was far less after taking into account manicures, makeup and personal trainers. Some NFL teams make their cheerleaders pay to audition as well.

However, professional or very experienced cheerleaders have been reported to make as high as $75,000 per season. This salary includes extra bonus money from playoffs and Super Bowl performances.

When the professional cheerleaders miss the games due to injury or other reasons, they are replaced by the supporting cheerleaders. They get paid a maximum of $9 per hour and minimum wage of $5 per hour, getting up to $20,000 per season.

The reason why cheerleaders get paid so little is because for both the NFL and the NBA, they are independent contractors. This means the teams are not necessarily required to pay them salaries in line with state and federal minimum wages.


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