Super Bowl 50 is over. The beer has been drunk, the nachos devoured. The Denver Broncos have had their victory parade and those multi-million dollar commercials can be found on YouTube. After weeks of hype, you can now concentrate on more serious matters.
No, I am not referring to the presidential primaries, the Syrian refugee crisis, the Zika Virus or the lead-poisoned water of Flint, MI. I am talking, of course, about the issue of low NFL Cheerleader pay.
Several articles have been written on the subject lately, which I suspect are all just a way to drive traffic to Web sites by posting photos like these:
Not that the problem isn’t a real one. Many of these cheerleaders only get paid $70 to $100 dollars per game. Often, they have to buy their own uniforms, and they do not get paid for the numerous hours of practice per week.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I’m all for paying people more. I have no doubt that NFL Cheerleaders are extremely talented and hard working, and deserve to be compensated according. I also don’t think that the NFL is going to miss the few hundred thousands dollars that it would take to compensate cheerleaders properly when they are pulling in $13 billion per year. I just think we need to put this into perspective.
There are about 650 NFL Cheerleaders. Meanwhile, millions of retail, fast-food and restaurant workers are also earning below subsistence wages.
Of course, most of them don’t look as good in knee-high boots.
The NFL is unlikely to raise cheerleader pay substantially. Sure, they’ve settled with some who brought lawsuits against them, and some teams have given raises for PR purposes, but cheerleaders will never earn the six figure salaries of even the most mediocre of NFL players. The reason is simple supply and demand.
I once interviewed a young woman who told me it was her dream to become a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. She had about as much chance of becoming their quarterback – or getting hired by me, for that matter. She applied for an admin job and could barely type.
For every NFL Cheerleader, there are at least 10 equally qualified women who would gladly take her place. Some would probably even work for free. This hardly creates pressure to increase wages. Do you know why computer coders are paid so well? Because there are so few of them. If there were ten coders for every job available, they wouldn’t be making much money, either.
And while the cheerleading squads generally earn money for their teams, the total income for the entire NFL is about $1 million annually. A lot of money for you and me, but nothing for the juggernaut which is professional football. It basically breaks down to $1,500 per cheerleader. I once worked for a retail operation where people earned only slightly more than cheerleaders, and it earned twice as much per employee.
If cheerleading squads were disbanded next season, only those guys at the games who need something to ogle between downs through fogged up binoculars would care. Most of us would just shrug and keep watching. Hell, if the fact that the guys playing the game are ending up with brain damage because of too many skull crushing impacts doesn’t make us stop watching, why would we care if a few scantily clad women are suddenly gone from the sidelines?
Don’t believe me? I remember back in the 80’s when the Chicago Bears disbanded their cheerleading squad, the Honeybears. Their owner, Virginia Halas McCasky, thought they had no place in the blood and guts world of professional football and got rid of them. The Bears still continued to play, draw fans, earn a profit and sometimes even win a game. Sure, there are those who blame the so-called Honeybear Curse for the Monsters of the Midway not winning a Super Bowl ever since, but that has had more to do with poor management, misguided coaching, mediocre players and bad luck than with some leggy blonde high kicking in short-shorts.
So while NFL Cheerleaders deserve more money for the work they do, they probably aren’t going to get it (or at least not much more than a slight raise so that the NFL gets the media off its backs). Not for a job in which has little value and in which workers can be so easily replaced. But don’t worry about them. Most cheerlead part-time. They have full-time jobs or are going to school. The exposure they get can lead to modeling contracts and other sidelines that will earn them more money, or, for the 1950’s traditionalists, land them a wealthy husband.
And if they truly want to earn a good living and be paid well for the work they do, they’d be better off dropping those pom-poms and picking up a laptop.