Netflix docuseries reveals Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have a similar salary to Chick-fil-A worker

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Jun 26, 2024 at 12:42 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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I recently watched a docuseries on Netflix called America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and it was a pretty eye-opening watch experience. Before I’d even gotten halfway through the first episode, I felt incredibly protective of the girls on screen. These women are machines, and the fact that they are so often subjected to harassment and aren’t properly compensated for the intense work that they do really, really bothers me. Over the past few years—especially with the widespread success of Netflix’s Cheer docuseries—the public has become obsessed with learning more about the cheerleading industry, and this recent show definitely pulled back that frilly curtain.

America’s sweethearts are required to look like supermodels but have the physical endurance and agility of athletes. While their routines often look effortless on the football field, the training and detail behind each and every move is paramount to the squad’s success and fame. Not to mention the sheer intensity of the sexualisation and beauty standards placed on these professionals.

@netflix

brb, need to get ready to practice my jump splits. AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS: dallas cowboys cheerleaders is now streaming!! #DCC #DallasCowboysCheerleaders

♬ DCC Jump Split - Netflix

In TIME’s review of the show, journalist Judy Berman writes at length about how the Netflix documentary does a great job at showing the harsh realities of this romanticised profession: “Low pay, long hours (at one point we’re told the cheerleaders are working for 21 straight days during a performance-packed holiday season), increased vulnerability to sexual violence, the expectation that purpose and camaraderie should make up for being woefully undervalued? If you’re familiar with the occupational hazards of women’s work, it all starts to sound pretty familiar.”

@wannabeadcc

Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders perform Thunder Struck #dallascowboys #dcfl #cowboysnation #nfl #dallas #cowboys #howboutthemcowboys #dcc #dccmakingtheteam #dallascowboycheerleaders #americassweethearts

♬ original sound - Heather Brink Waller

America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders allows viewers to gain insight into the cheerleaders’ work routine and peer into the personal lives of these incredibly determined and impressive women. From measly paychecks to unwanted attention, here are some of the key takeaways from the new viral Netflix docu-series.

How much do the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders get paid?

One of the most shocking elements of America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders was finding out how little these women are being paid. Mind you, the NFL players these women work alongside can be on contracts where they’re earning anything from $3 million to $50 million.

And while there’s no ‘official’ figure in respect of how much the cheerleaders make, there’s a lot of speculation and there have been claims and hints in the past. For example, in 2022, NBC Sports Boston reported that the women were being paid approximately $150 per game.

Indeed, in the Netflix show, 2022 DCC alum Kat Puryear compared her salary to that of “a Chick-fil-A worker who works full time.”

Salary may vary depending on how senior you are in the squad, but overall, it’s not exactly ‘fair’, I’d say. And I think most of the internet agrees with me:

There are, of course, a lot of implications throughout the entire show that the girls don’t go to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders for the money, but rather that they do so for the experience and the thrill of it. All this does is place blame on the women and demonise them for not being satisfied with the small salary. Moreover, if we’re taking physical effort, time, and personal sacrifice into the equation, things are seriously out of kilter.

Are the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders subject to harassment?

Another very upsetting aspect of America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders was learning about how so many of these women have been subject to harassment, stalking, and sexual abuse.

Kelcey Wetterberg, who was part of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders from 2019 to 2023, spoke in the docu-series about how in one instance she found a hidden AirTag on her car. “I couldn’t live that anxious all the time. Like, not sleep, not eat because I was so scared of what was going to happen. I had to just pray and say, if this is something that’s going to happen to me, it’s going to happen to me, but I can’t live in fear all the time,” Wetterberg explained.

Another cheerleader also shared how she once had to file a police report after a game-day photographer touched her inappropriately.

In 2015, the Dallas Cowboys team paid a confidential settlement of $2.4 million after four members of the cheerleading squad accused a senior team executive of voyeurism in their locker room as they undressed during a 2015 event at AT&T Stadium, according to ESPN.

Specifically, one of the women alleged that she clearly saw Richard Dalrymple, the Cowboys’ longtime senior vice president for public relations and communications, standing behind a semi-hidden wall in their locker room with his iPhone extended towards them while they were changing their clothes.

This docu-series has definitely allowed us to gain greater insight into exactly how trying and emotionally taxing this profession truly is. If you haven’t yet watched America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, I would highly recommend it.

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