Cheerleader-hopefuls and avid fans might think that NFL cheerleaders have a dream job: Looking glamorous, representing their favorite team, and showing off their impressive athleticism.
The job isn’t all it’s cut out to be, however … not only does it come with a sparse paycheck, NFL cheerleaders have to adhere to these 15 ridiculous health regulations, including one that could seriously hurt them (page 13).
1. They can only use certain cleaning products
Their cleaning products are even policed. | Anetlanda/iStock/Getty Images
The Buffalo Bill’s cheerleading team, the “Jills,” were the subject of a lawsuit on behalf of two of its former cheerleaders. One of their complaints? The 12-page handbook that dictated everything down to their “appearance etiquette” and “hygiene.”
There was a section detailing what the cheerleaders could use on their “intimate areas.” Jills weren’t allowed to use deodorant, chemically-enhanced products, loofahs, or sponges.
Next: They had to lie about their appetite.
2. Regulated gum-chewing
The cheerleaders cannot be seen chewing gum. | Nyul/iStock/Getty Images
The Seahawks cheerleading team rulebook stated that “the Sea Gal director may dictate policies regarding gum chewing, smoking, eating, drinking … and other activities whenever such activities may reflect negatively on the Seahawks’ organization.”
The Jill’s handbook banned gum chewing as well. It also told the women they couldn’t eat in uniform unless it was previously arranged, and had to claim they “weren’t hungry” if anyone asked.
Next: The seriously personal, restrictive rule in the guidebooks
3. Tampon control
The handbook even focuses on tampons. | Emapoket/iStock/Getty Images
The “General hygiene and lady body maintenance” section of the Jill’s handbook infantilized the women to the point where it dictated their feminine product choice.
“A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus to build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.”
Next: Their appearance must be flawless
4. They can’t eat finger foods
Everyone else is enjoying wings at the game, but the cheerleaders definitely don’t. | Bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images
We’ll cover what cheerleaders are encouraged to eat (and what they were banned from). Certain food-related regulations like this one were created all in the name of etiquette, it seems.
“Avoid ordering food that may be difficult to manage such as certain finger foods or meat with small bones,” the rulebook stated. Since the Jills weren’t allowed to eat in uniform, we’re going to assume this rule had nothing to do with keeping them spot-free.
Next: The scale is their biggest enemy
5. They have ‘weigh-ins’
These weigh-ins are intimidating. | Ensuria/Getty Images
The Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders 2009 handbook stated the women were subject to regular weigh-ins. Professional fighters have to do this before a fight to make sure they’re in the weight class. Cheerleaders probably shouldn’t have that same concern.
The Ravens cheerleaders faced potentially serious consequences if they didn’t meet the requirement. The handbook read that “failure to comply with the body weight and/or appearance guidelines could result in suspension from the team or game day suspensions.”
Next: It gets worse…
6. And shouldn’t eat anything before those weigh-ins
The weigh-ins are mentally and physically exhausting. | Clsgraphics/iStock/Getty Images
“I grew to dread those pregame weigh-ins. No one would eat or drink that day for fear of gaining weight,” a former NFL cheerleader to Cosmopolitan.
Cheerleaders would take drastic measures like waking up early to sweat out extra ounces in the steam room. They would fight to be first in line, noting that, “the sooner you weighed in, the more precious seconds you had to scarf down energy bars before dancing and cheering for four exhausting hours straight.”
Next: No comfort food allowed
7. Forget eating anything sweet or greasy
They had to refuse treats and sweets. | CuorerouC/iStock/Getty Images
It wasn’t just the coaches who regulated the girls’ weights … choreographers restrict what they ate and test the women on their ability to resist.
First, she was pulled from the performance because she weighed 127 at a weigh-in. “Adding insult to injury, the next day at practice, the choreographer … offered me the cookie from her lunch, knowing very well I couldn’t eat it.”
Next: The women must meet high expectations
8. They have to adhere to an ‘ideal weight’
Professional cheerleaders have to stick toideal weight requirements. | Rick Stewart/Getty Images
While the Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders were expected to “maintain ideal body weight,” the Cincinnati Ben-Gals restrictions were even more specific. The women had to remain within three pounds of the “ideal weight” or risk professional consequences (next).
Next: You won’t believe what they can be fired for
9. Changing your appearance can be a fireable offense
You can’t change your appearance without authorization. | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Jills cheerleaders had to keep their hair one color. Their rulebook barred “trendy roots or coloring,” and allowed “subtle” highlights as long as they were approved by higher-ups. By signing a cheerleading contract, the women seemed to sign their free will away, at least when it came to their appearance.
For many cheerleaders, making the slightest changes — especially gaining weight, muscle tone, changing your hair, or developing a skin condition — could lead to suspension or dismissal from the squad.
Next: The quest for perfection gets dangerous
10. Some follow crash diets
Crash diets can be harmful. | Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock/Getty Images
The leaked cheerleader world’s diet showed how serious the professionals get when it comes to their diet. Regulations included; “Only 2 meals a day — choose wisely!” and “1 slice of meat per day.”
“I alternated between starving myself and purging, operating solely on caffeine, herbal energy supplements, and a fear of being yelled at in front of the entire team,” the former NFL cheerleader disclosed.
Next: They take extreme measures to look incredible
11. Body wraps (to appear skinnier)
They go the extra mile to look good. | Rick Stewart/Getty Images
“I got colonics, had body wraps, took diet pills, fasted, and got enemas. Eventually, I had not just the six-pack abs they wanted, but visible ribs and dangerously low body fat to boot,” a former NFL cheerleader told Cosmopolitan.
Body wrapping is supposed to rid the body of toxins and puffiness, but there are no serious claims to back the procedure up. “There’s never been any real scientific evidence that body wraps pull out toxins or purify your body in any way,” Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., a dermatologist, told Web MD.
Next: They determine how you accessorize and when you hydrate.
12. Piercing regulations
Cheerleaders aren’t allowed to have visible body modifications, tattoo or body piercings. | IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images
Cheerleaders for the Carolina Panthers, called the TopCats, have to arrive at the stadium five hours before a game for body checks. They have to cover or remove any body piercings and tattoos. The appearance regulation might seem tame but speaks to the strict appearance code girls have to follow.
The TopCats have one of the strictest game-time regulations: Water breaks can be taken only when the Panthers are on offense.
Next: The girls are forced to show their midriffs
13. They’re fined if they miss ‘two-piece Tuesdays’
A very strict rule to follow. | IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images
Where professional football players are fined for bad behavior and off-field issues, NFL cheerleaders are fined for wearing clothing viewed as too conservative.
The Oakland Raiders 2012 etiquette agreement revealed that the women were subject to a $10 fine if they didn’t adhere to “two-piece Tuesdays.” On Tuesday practices or games the women were required to wear a two-piece costume that revealed their belly button and midriff.
Next: Some view it as their responsibility when a player cheats
14. They’re responsible to look into players’ love lives
Cheerleaders are often asked to look into players’ lives. | Dehooks/iStock/Getty Images
The Sea Gals’ handbook discourages cheerleaders from fraternizing, dating, cohabiting, or marrying Seahawks players, coaches, management, or mascots. The Oakland Raiders’ handbook went a step farther and put the responsibility of ensuring situations weren’t adulterous into the hands of single women.
“Make a point to find out if a player is married … In most cases, he won’t tell you!” the book read. “You can call the Raider office with questions about marital status and I encourage you to do so. Again, he will not tell you he’s married!”
Next: The overall message…
15. Their appearance had to be ‘impeccable’ at all times
They’re placed under strict standards. | IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images
The Jill’s handbook had a “glamour requirements” section which detailed exactly what hairstyle the Jills needed to wear, as well as when and what cosmetics they had to use. An ex-NFL cheerleader told Cosmopolitan how difficult the glamour requirements were on her self-esteem.
“I quickly found out that the hardest part of professional cheerleading isn’t learning the eight counts, high kicks, or whatever cheesy dance move we were being taught. It was always looking perfect. Our contracts actually said, ‘Your appearance must be impeccable at all times.’”
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