Home Ethics Sociology Cheerleaders: The Perception and the Reality

Cheerleaders: The Perception and the Reality

Cheerleaders: The Perception and the Reality
A $1.25-million settlement was divvied up among nearly 100 Oakland Raiderettes on Wednesday. Photo: AP /MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ

A number of NFL cheerleaders are suing their various employers for failure to pay promised wages. The case of the Oakland Raiderettes and the Raiders was recently resolved in favor of the cheerleaders to the tune of $1.25 million. When reading the comments below the story, I was rather shocked by the amount of cheerleader hate out there.

I wanted to take a moment to try and figure out why there is so much rage.

I think it’s important I give a full disclosure about my experience with cheerleaders. I’ve known quite a few of them as I was heavily involved with sports all through primary school and even college. While I knew many cheerleaders, the reality is that I was, and remain, pretty much a nerd. I didn’t go on a date with a cheerleader until much later in life and that was a very nice young lady who performed for the St. Louis Rams. Generally, cheerleaders didn’t have time for me.

One thing I know for sure is they work hard. They spend many hours practicing their routines and at the NFL level they are almost universally skilled dancers. They also spend a great deal of time promoting the team when not on the field. They go to charity events as representatives of the club and spread goodwill wherever they go.

The vast majority of the cheerleaders in the NFL do not consider it their main job. Some are students and others are career women who do it largely for the enjoyment and exposure, not money.

You’ll laugh at that last one. Not the money? Then why are they filing lawsuits? My answer to that is simple. They were promised a particular remuneration for their efforts and were not paid it. It pretty much doesn’t matter the amount at that point. You should be paid for your services based on the contract you signed.

Anyway, back to my point. Why do so many people seem to despise cheerleaders? I think it’s largely an effort to boost feelings about oneself. What I see in the comments is generally a put down of the cheerleaders because they are doing a low-paying job and are hired mainly because of their appearance. “I’m better than that stupid cheerleader,” that’s the general sentiment.

I’m sure some cheerleaders are not particularly intelligent and I’m just as certain others are quite bright, college graduates with STEM degrees. I’m sure some of them have had their figures enhanced by surgery and some have not, another common thread in all the hate. But why all the judgment? Why do cheerleaders, of all people, seem to attract such ferocious hate?

I find it ugly. Very ugly. If a woman or young lady wants to be a cheerleader, there’s nothing wrong with so wanting. If she wants to be an engineer, that’s great also. If you don’t like “cheerleaders” the problem is with you. If you have to denigrate others in order to feel better about yourself, you need to take an analytical look at your life.

That’s the bottom line. When you are filled with hate for another group of people, the problem is almost certainly you. Spend some time to examine why denigrating others makes you feel better about yourself. What does that mean? How did you get to that point in life?

I suppose the reason so many hate cheerleaders is the public perception they have the world at their fingertips. They are the most popular students. They are attractive, energetic, fun to be around. When we make ourselves superior to someone like that, well, we must be pretty awesome.

I don’t feel that way. My estimation of cheerleaders is they are pretty cool. Now, if only I could dance better than a spastic primate.

By Tom Liberman

Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time. 


  1. Tom cheerleading has evolved and gone off in a few different branches. There is now “professional cheer” like the Raiderettes; “competitive cheer” the kind that has provisional Olympic status. If you aren’t familiar with competitive cheer, google an athlete like Karolyne Day, or a team like Top Gun Large Coed. The third original type of cheerleading is still around, the type promotes school spirit and supports a team; that is referred to as “sideline cheer” or “school cheer”. Watch the competitive cheer videos and imagine these athletes trying to defend their sport with the kind of stereotypes and even “hate” you write about!


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