The topic of pay for NFL cheerleaders has sparked a recent viral debate following new information disclosed in Netflix’s new docuseries, America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

The documentary series has brought attention to the financial realities many NFL cheerleaders face and raised concerns about “fair” pay in the professional cheerleading sector.

Former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Katherine Puryear set off a recent social media storm with her candid remarks on pay for NFL cheerleaders. In a TikTok video that quickly went viral, Puryear compared her earnings to that of a substitute teacher or full-time worker at the fast food chain Chick-fil-A.


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Although she was unable to give any numbers due to a confidentiality clause in her contract, Puryear detailed how the system works. Cheerleaders earn a flat fee for practices and games based on their length of time with the organization plus an hourly rate. Veterans get increasing compensation up to their fifth year, at which point the increases stop. Cheerleaders get the same compensation package for public appearances.

“All in all, it’s like a full-time commitment, [with] part-time pay. So it’s a good part-time job, but we do a lot of work,” Puryear said in her social media post.

The documentary series also featured insights from other former NFL cheerleaders, such as Tina Kalina, who spoke about earning a nominal game day fee of $35, which she “basically donated … back,” reported The Hollywood Reporter.

A 2022 report by NBC Sports Boston gave some figures.

Noting that NFL cheerleaders can get paid for featured appearances outside the game schedule, the outlet reported that professional cheerleaders earn roughly $150 per game — the equivalent of $22,500 per year — on average. More popular, better-known cheerleading squads, like the Carolina TopCats and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, can earn more. According to the report, Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders earn roughly $500 per game in addition to featured appearance work, putting them at an annual salary of $75,000.

These calculations appear to be based on extrapolating cheerleaders’ meager earnings to calculate what they would earn from their work if — and that’s a big “if” — that work was done full-time and they were to earn an annual salary which, it is important to remember, they do not.

As of July 1, the typical hourly wage for an NFL cheerleader in the United States is listed at $22 an hour, per ZipRecruiter.

The average salary for an NFL player hovers around $2.8 million, while the median salary is $860,000, according to a report from Diario AS.

Neither the NFL nor representatives from the National Football Cheerleaders Alumni Organization have responded to The Dallas Express‘ request for comment on pay disparity for professional cheerleaders.