Kansas City Chiefs cheerleaders perform before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The Kansas City Chiefs cheerleading squad posted a reel on Instagram Sunday revealing their day jobs, and fans were shocked to learn that such high-profile athletes would also need extra work.
The video — which garnered over 4 million views in three days — shows members of the cheerleading squad practicing various stunts with a text overlay: “POV: You’re at work but you’re also an NFL cheerleader and have practice tonight.” As individual cheerleaders show off their moves, each of their jobs is listed: a registered nurse, a marketing account executive, a law student, a middle school English teacher, a civil engineer and more.
“This is cool, but also, the NFL is a billion dollar industry and they don’t pay the cheerleaders enough money,” read one comment on the video, with more than 26,000 likes.
“This isn’t the flex you think it is. You’re telling us you don’t pay your cheerleaders shit,” another comment reads, with more than 22,000 likes.
NFL cheerleaders often don’t make a full-time-equivalent wage, forcing them to maintain another job or go to school. Their pay can vary from team to team, and solid wage information is often sourced from lawsuits and public complaints, but some NFL cheerleaders say they’ve made as little as $1,250 per season over the years.
Mhkeeba Pate, host of the Pro Cheerleading Podcast, conducted a survey where cheerleaders could voluntarily submit their team’s pay. According to Pate’s study, one NFL team pays their cheerleaders as much as $500 per game. Still, most game days are at least eight-hour days.
“It’s such a layered conversation but it’s simple in my mind — yes, we’re proud of the careers they hold outside of cheering but yes, they should absolutely be paid more for what they do as cheerleaders,” Pate told HuffPost.
NFL sideline workers called “waterboys,” meanwhile, can make more than $50,000 per year, according to Pro Football Network.
And cheerleaders’ pay now is better than it used to be. Over the past few years, former NFL cheerleaders have sued teams that paid them a pittance for their work. In 2018, Erica Wilkins, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, sued the Cowboys, saying she and the other cheerleaders were paid less than the team’s mascot. She said during the 2014-2015 season she was only paid $4,700.
Aimee Martinez, a former Chiefs cheerleader who was on the squad more than 20 years ago, commented on the reel. She said she wishes it were different for new members.
“Yes, we can love to work and also love to dance,” Martinez wrote. “But, the pay has never reflected the amount of time, work, love, support all of these women put in. Therefore, you MUST work that much more. You have women moving to KC to be part of this team, helping the economy immensely, and I just wish they were compensated fairly! This is is not on [Chiefs Cheer], but rather a system that says, ‘a million girls would kill to have this job.’”
That mentality — that each cheerleader is replaceable — was clear on “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making The Team,” a CMT reality show that ran for 16 seasons and followed women auditioning for the squad. Just days after Julia, one candidate on season 14, said during a mock interview that she hopes being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader will help advance her broadcast journalism career, she was cut from training camp. Another candidate during season 4 was asked, “Would you say that you make the uniform or the uniform makes you?” After she answered, “I make the uniform because I am fully prepared to come with everything that I have and be a rockstar,” she was cut. The correct answer, according to the judges, was that the uniform makes her.
The Chiefs did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.