If you pretty much live in joggers and wear them always, from grabbing an almond milk cap at Starbucks to lounging on the couch, chances are, you might not make it as an NFL cheerleader. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you probably won’t want to be one after reading this anyway. No Sweats in Public is just one of the strict rules that some teams in the NFL enforce, according to cheerleader handbooks reviewed by The New York Times. The male players, meanwhile, get to wear all the sweatpants they want.
The cheerleaders’ bodies are measured frequently, too, as reported by The NYT. Members of the Ben-Gals, the cutesy name for the Cincinnati Bengals’ cheering squad, have strict weight requirements and must be within a max three pounds of their “ideal weight” at all times. Talk about strict calorie counting — eating a frozen deep dish pizza on Friday night could easily add a four pound food baby. According to a 2009 cheerleader handbook from the Baltimore Ravens, cheerleaders were weighed frequently to ensure they were keeping their “ideal body weight.”
Other handbooks held information on personal grooming tactics, like how to “properly” use a tampon and different ways to shave. What is the proper way for a cheerleader to use a tampon? You must be eager to know whether or not you’ve been doing it wrong all these years, aren’t you?
The Oakland Raiders’ Raiderettes face a slew of fines — or, sometimes, an entire day’s pay — should they forget part of their uniform, bring the wrong pompoms or arrive with footwear that hasn’t been shined. Many cheerleaders are also banned working for other teams (even though their employment is part-time), entering modelling competitions or posting photos to social media wearing a bikini or lingerie.
The rules that these cheer squads have to adhere to feel wildly outdated, and in 2018, sound downright offensive. Sure, being an NFL cheerleader is a career that’s partially based on appearance, but many of these cheerleaders are also incredibly strong, athletic, smart and talented performers and dancers.
If it makes you feel better (spoiler: it won’t) the outrageous requests aren’t limited to appearance. The New York Times also reports that the Saintsations, the cheerleaders of the New Orleans Saints, have a handbook with an anti-fraternization clause. Cheerleaders must avoid all contact with players, meaning they can’t attend events or parties where male players might be, must block male players on social media (though the men can openly contact the women), and if a cheerleader walks into a restaurant or bar where a player is, she must leave. Even if she’s already seated with a margarita in hand when he walks in, she has to pay her bill and exit ASAP.
It should be noted that not all NFL teams have a specific handbook for their cheerleading squads, but it sounds like there are loads of unwritten rules that the women (and men — there are a handful of male cheerleaders, too) must follow.
While not every team in the league employs cheerleaders — there are currently six cheerleaderless teams, including the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears — it makes watching a game feel a bit cringey knowing what kind of conditions these bubbly entertainers have been working under.