Former Ravens’ Cheerleader Reveals The Dark And Gritty Side Of NFL Cheerleading

Photo courtesy of ESPN

Photo courtesy of ESPN

Kaitlyn Elliott
Staff Writer

In a recent interview with, a former Ravens cheerleader tells the awfully “dark side” of being an NFL cheerleader.

Every year in March, hundreds of young men and women try out for a spot on the Raven’s dance/stunt teams. Their talents range from extraordinary tumbling skills to just plain looks, but it takes the complete package to cheer at M&T Bank Stadium.

As a part of the tryout process, each “contestant” is weighed. Regardless of looks or health, if you don’t make the limit, you will be benched.  In the 2009 team handbook, sent in from the anonymous cheerleader, the rules regarding weight are as follows: “Each cheerleader, male and female, is expected to maintain ideal body weight and physical look for the duration of your contract. Weigh-ins will be held at the discretion of the Ravens. a) Failure to comply with body weight and/or appearance guidelines could result in suspension from the team or game day suspensions. b) 3 game misses due to physical appearance suspensions could result in dismissal from the team. “

The anonymous cheerleader also stated in an email that one veteran cheerleader tried out weighing less than she did the year before. Throughout the season, she gained a few pounds, never exceeding her weight from last year, and was benched for the season eventually quitting the team.

To be a Ravens cheerleader, you not only have to meet a weight limit, but also must have “the look.” Cheerleaders are required to go to a “team salon” and agree to get the same hairstyle throughout the season, paying for it themselves out of pocket. The team does provide some teeth whitening, tanning-vouchers, and gym memberships but they are limited and usually given to veterans. All cheerleaders are required to use these same things, but must again pay out of pocket.

After the cheerleaders take their infamous bikini calendar photos, each squad-member is required to buy 100 calendars at $12 a pop. They can then resell them for $15 for a $3 profit. This is only the beginning of their measly wages. Each cheerleader receives only $100 for every home game with the captains raking in $125. A far stretch from the boys they cheer for, averaging 1.9 million a year according to Forbes magazine.

The cheerleaders also receive money for appearances. The team charges $175, per cheerleader, per hour for charity and $300 for regular appearances. The anonymous cheerleader stated that that brings in about $50 an hour for the cheerleaders. Not bad right? Wrong. Each cheerleader is lucky to make 30 appearances yearly, many unpaid due to a rule that requires each cheerleader to attend a charity event twice monthly unpaid.

Another dark side to being a cheerleader comes with discipline.  The cheerleader told Deadspin, “Sufficient notice, permission and reason must be given in writing in triplicate copies to management prior to each excused miss” regarding practices. The inconsistency is ridiculous as well. The cheerleader also revealed one instance where many of the girls had to sell Jay Z/ Justin Timberlake tickets because of a practice. “A big chunk of the team had to sell their tickets to the Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake concert at M&T Bank Stadium because they had practice that Thursday night. Two of the coaches and the trainer didn’t make it to practice that night and posted pictures at the concert the next day.”

The incognito cheerleader went on to say that being a cheerleader was really just a hobby. From what we’ve seen, making a decent living off the “hobby” is almost impossible; and dealing with the stress just might not be worth it.

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