Entertainment

How Much Money Do Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Actually Make?

The organisation is being criticised following a recently-released documentary about the team.
A blonde Dall cowboys cheerleader wears white shorts and a white and blue top, holding pom pons with a hand above her head and one on her hip
Image: Netflix

The Dallas Cowboys NFL team have the most iconic cheerleading squad in the world. Known as “America’s Sweethearts,” the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC) are the subject of a new Netflix docuseries, which re-enforces that a place on the squad is one of the most covetable jobs in the dance industry. Titled America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the series follows DCC from trials to training and into the football season.

While it does, of course, feature star-spangled hot pants and big hair aplenty, the documentary does not shy away from revealing the grit behind the glamour, either. Since it aired, the gender politics that play out in the organisation (and therefore on the show) have been scrutinised—but it is not just the narrow beauty standards and questionable comments that have garnered attention. Rather, people can’t stop talking about DCC wages, with the squad’s Instagram comments currently peppered with calls to up the pay for their dancers and honour the women as athletes.

As well as detailing their time at training and on the team, the Netflix doco follows some of the cheerleaders in their everyday lives. Producers reveal that most of the women on the team have day jobs, with some even working full-time as nurses, orthodontists or florists in addition to DCC training.

Image: Netflix

How Much Do Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Get Paid?

While there have been reports that Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders earn a salary of up to $112,000 (US$75,000) per year, this doesn’t exactly stack up, given comments made in the series.

In the first episode, DCC alum Kat compares her salary to that of “a Chick-fil-A worker who works full time.” 

NBC Sports Boston reports that the average pay for an NFL cheerleader is around $225 (US$150) per game, but that DCC does pay more because of its icon status.

Per Sports Illustrated, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders get paid around $750 (US$500) per game. This equals around $15,000 (US$10,000) for an entire 18-week season. Per DCC’s website, they are also paid for rehearsals, promo appearances and shows. The exact amount they earn from that is not specified.

dallas cowboys cheerleaders line up in practice. They have arms over each other's shoulders and wear a red sports bra and black shorts
Image: Netflix

It is worth noting that in 2018, former Dallas cheerleader Erica Wilkins sued the organisation and alleged she was paid only $12 (US$8) per hour for practices, which is just above minimum wage. She also claimed that she was paid less than Rowdy, the team’s mascot. Wilkins told the New York Post at the time that, while she understood how covetable the role was, “at the end of the day, prestige doesn’t pay my rent. I can’t walk down to my leasing office and hand them my uniform for the month.”

DCC pay was even more dire in the past, though. Archive footage in America’s Sweethearts highlights that cheerleaders were once paid as little as $22 (US$15) per game.

“I think my game-day fee was $35, and we basically donated that back,” Tina Kalina, who was on the squad in 1989, says in the series. “These millennials, X-Gen—whatever they’re called—they do look at it as a job, where as us old-timers look at it as more of a privilege.”

Charlotte Jones, the Dallas Cowboys chief brand officer (and daughter of owner, Jerry Jones) echoes this sentiment. She tells the camera, “There’s a lot of cynicism around pay for NFL cheerleaders—as it should be. They’re not paid a lot. But the facts are, they actually don’t come here for the money. They come here for something that’s actually bigger than that to them

Image: Netflix

Greg Whiteley, who directed and executive produced the Netflix docuseries, told Glamour, “Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are on the highest end of that [NFL cheer] pay scale. I’ve heard horror stories of what a typical NFL cheerleader [makes], but I think the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders fall into a new category. None of them are rich. None of them are getting paid a ton, but it isn’t the same dearth of payment that I think other NFL cheerleaders have to experience.”

In contrast, in 2023, rookie Eric Scott Jr., the sixth-round pick in the NFL draft, signed with the team on a year four-year contract for a reported US$4.1 million. The Cowboys’ quarterback, Dak Prescott, reportedly earns a salary of around US$40 million.

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