When asked point-blank by an America’s Sweethearts producer how much money a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader makes, class of 2022 veteran Kat Puryear struggles to put the salary into perspective. “I would say I’m making like…a substitute teacher…” she says, “I would say I’m making…like a Chik-fil-A worker who works full time.”

Is cheerleading a full-time job?

Yes and no. It takes up plenty of hours, but won’t pay enough to live on. Mhkeeba Pate, a former NFL cheerleader, told PopSugar in 2021, “Teams are pretty up front that the role of being an NFL cheerleader is a part-time job, so that it’s understood that [we] would have to supplement income with another part-time or full-time job…It also is a big bragging point for a lot of cheerleading teams who promote that their cheerleaders are not just professional dancers—that they actually have careers as accountants, engineers, teachers…They don’t squarely acknowledge that a cheerleader could never live off of the wages because it has historically never been the intention to pay them a livable salary.”

Charlotte Jones, the executive vice president of the Cowboys and chief brand officer, explains in America’s Sweethearts, “There’s a lot of cynicism around pay for NFL cheerleaders, as there should be. They’re not paid a lot. But the facts are that they actually don’t come here for the money.”

Jones implies that the dancers perform simply for the thrill of it, and for the opportunity to call themselves a member of the squad. “They come here for something that’s actually bigger than [pay] to them,” she says. “They have a passion for dance, there are not a lot of opportunities in the field of dance, and to get to perform at an elite level…it is about being a part of something bigger than themselves. It is about a sisterhood that they were able to form, about relationships that they have for the rest of their lives. They have a chance to feel like they’re valued, that they’re special and that they are making a difference. When the women come here, they find their passion and they find their purpose.”

America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. (Center) Claire in America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024Courtesy of Netflix

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