National Football League Cheerleading or simply NFL Cheerleading, is a group of professional cheerleading organizations in the United States.[1] 24 of the 32 NFL teams include a cheerleading squad in their franchise.[2] In 1954, the Baltimore Colts became the first NFL team to have cheerleaders. They were part of Baltimore's Marching Colts.[citation needed]

The Indianapolis Colts were the first NFL team to have cheerleaders when they were known as the Baltimore Colts.

Most NFL cheerleading squads are a part-time job. Often, cheerleaders have completed or are attending a university, and continue on to other careers after cheering for one to four seasons. The members participate in practice, training camp, games, appearances, photo shoots, and charity events. Apart from their main duties of cheering during the football games, the cheerleaders have many other responsibilities, the main one is marketing the team they cheer for. Nearly every team member is available for appearances at schools, events, conferences, etc., for a set fee.

An anticipated annual event is the release of each squad's calendar, featuring members for each month in swimsuits or uniforms.

Also, many cheerleading squads have "Junior Cheerleading" programs, in which they teach children, usually in the 6-12 year age range, on how to dance, perform on selected gamedays with the main squad, and often NFL cheerleaders act as mentors and role models to the children.

As well as being a mainstay of American football culture, the cheerleaders are one of the biggest entertainment groups to regularly perform for the United States Armed Forces overseas with performances and tours being enlisted by the USO. Teams send their variety show, an elite group of their best members, to perform combination shows of dance, music, baton twirling, acrobatics, gymnastics, and more. In February 2007, the Buffalo Bills even sent a squad of eight along with their choreographer into the war zone of Iraq. In 1996, the San Francisco 49ers Cheerleaders and their director helicoptered into the war inflicted country of Bosnia with the USO and the U.S. Army. The U.S. troops in Korea have been entertained during the holiday season with the USO's Bob Hope Tour. Over the years, the tour has featured NFL cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington.

Cheerleader competitions


The first "Battle of the NFL Cheerleaders" was held in 1979 in Hollywood, Florida.[citation needed] Two cheerleaders from each cheerleading team compete against other mini-teams in various athletic events.[citation needed] The events include kayaking, 100 yard dash, obstacle courses, and other events.[citation needed] The Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders took home the title in 1979.[citation needed] In 1980, it was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey and the Washington Redskinettes were the champions.[citation needed] The winners were Shiona Baum and Jeannie Fritz, and each received a car as the grand prize.[citation needed] The competition was resurrected in 2006 by the NFL Network, and was called NFL Cheerleader Playoffs.[citation needed] The playoffs were taped between July 17 and July 21, 2006, at Six Flags New England in Agawam, Massachusetts.[citation needed] Two-person teams of cheerleaders from 25 of the NFL's 32 teams participated in a four-event series of competitions.[citation needed] The first two events tested the cheerleaders' athletic abilities in events like the 100-yard dash, kayaking, tandem cycling, and the obstacle course.[citation needed] The third event was a trivia challenge called "Know Your NFL."[citation needed] The final competition was a one-minute dance routine, similar to what they normally perform on NFL sidelines.[citation needed] The San Diego Chargers team (Casie and Shantel) defeated the Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams squads to win the overall championship.[citation needed] The 3 teams finished in a three-way tie, with 210 points. The Chargers were declared the winners based on winning the dance competition.[citation needed]



Listed by name, with corresponding NFL team.

Current or Most Recent Name Year Established and Former Names NFL Team
Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders 1964–1987 St. Louis Cardinals Cheerleaders
1988–1993 Phoenix Cardinals Cheerleaders
1994–present Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders
Arizona Cardinals
Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders 1969–1976 The Falconettes
1976–present Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders
Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders 1998–present Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Jills 1960–1965 Buffalo Bills Cheerleaders
1966–2013 Buffalo Jills
Buffalo Bills
Carolina Topcats 1995–present Carolina Panthers
Chicago Honey Bears 1976–1985[3] Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Ben–Gals 1976–present[4] Cincinnati Bengals
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders 1961–1971 CowBelles & Beaux
1972–present Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders[5]
Dallas Cowboys
Denver Broncos Cheerleaders 1971–1976 Bronco Belles
1977–1985 Pony Express
1993–present Denver Broncos Cheerleaders
Denver Broncos
Detroit Lions Cheerleaders 1963-1974[6]
2016–present Detroit Lions Cheerleaders[7]
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers Cheerleaders 1957–1961 Packerettes
1961–1972 Golden Girls
1973–1977 Packerettes[8][9]
1977–1986 Sideliners[10]
1987–2006 University of Wisconsin–Green Bay cheerleaders
2007–present UWGB and St. Norbert College cheerleaders
Green Bay Packers
Houston Texans Cheerleaders 2002–present Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders 1954–1983 Baltimore Colts Cheerleaders
1984–present Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Roar 1995–present Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders 1964 Chiefs Cheerleaders
1971-85 Chiefettes
1986–present Chiefs Cheerleaders[11]
Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas Raiderettes 1961–present[12] Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Charger Girls 1960s–70s Chargettes
1990–2016 San Diego Charger Girls
2017–2021 Los Angeles Charger Girls[13]
Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders 1974–1994 Embraceable Ewes
1995–2015 St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders
2016–present Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders
Los Angeles Rams
Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders[14] 1966–1977 Dolphin Dolls
1978–1983 Dolphins Starbrites
1984–present Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders
Miami Dolphins
Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders 1961–1963 Vi-Queens
1964–1965, 1967–1983 The Parkettes (St. Louis Park High School)
1966 Edina High School and Mpls Roosevelt High School
1984–present Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders
Minnesota Vikings
New England Patriots Cheerleaders 1977–present New England Patriots
New Orleans Saintsations 1967 Louisiannes/Saints Dancers
1968 Mademoiselles
1971 Mam’selles
1975–78 Bonnies Amies
1978 Angels
1987–present Saintsations
New Orleans Saints
New York Jets Flight Crew Jet Set Rockettes 1966 - 1969 New York Jets
Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders 1948–1970s Eaglettes
1970s Liberty Belles
1986–present The Eagles Cheerleaders
Philadelphia Eagles
Pittsburgh Steelerettes 1960–1969[15] Pittsburgh Steelers
San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush 1979–present[16] San Francisco 49ers
Seahawks Dancers Sea Gals 1976–2019[17]
Seahawks Dancers 2019–Present
Seattle Seahawks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders
1976–1998 SwashBucklers
1999–present Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders[18]
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders 1975–1997 The Derrick Dolls
1998–present Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders
Tennessee Titans
Command Force 1962-1997 Washington Redskins Cheerleaders "Redskinettes"
1998–2020 Washington Redskins Cheerleaders[19][20] "First Ladies of Football"[21]
2021 Washington Entertainment Team
2022–present Command Force[22]
Washington Commanders

Teams without cheerleaders

The Packers collegiate squad in 2009

As of 2023, eight teams do not have cheerleading squads: Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers do, however, use a collegiate squad to cheer at home games.[23] Super Bowl XLV between the Steelers and the Packers in February 2011 was the first time a Super Bowl featured no cheerleaders. The Browns and the Giants are the only NFL teams that have never had cheerleaders, while the other aforementioned teams have had cheer squads in the past. However, there are reports that the Browns did have cheerleaders in 1971, but no records exist.[24]

The Buffalo Bills endorsed the officially independent Buffalo Jills from 1966 to 2013; when several cheerleaders sued both the Bills and the Bills organizations, the Jills suspended operations.[25]

Teams of "unofficial" cheerleaders began emerging in 2010 for NFL teams that did not have their own dance squad. These unofficial cheerleaders are not sanctioned by the NFL or any franchise in the NFL and therefore are not allowed to perform at games, represent the football team at any outside functions, or use any of the team's branding or trademarked colors on their uniforms. The teams are sponsored by local businesses, and the cheerleaders perform prior to the game, at tailgate parties, and other local events. Some also attend the local NFL games in uniform, and sit together in their block of season ticket seats. Their audition process, costuming, and choreography are very similar to official NFL cheer teams. Some also produce an annual swimsuit calendar, just like the legitimate cheerleaders. All of the independent teams hope at some point to be embraced by the NFL as "official" cheerleaders of their local teams.

  • The Detroit Pride Cheerleaders were the first independent professional team, put together in August 2010 to support the Lions.[26] However, as the squad was not officially recognized by the Lions, it could not use the Lions' logos nor colors.[27] In 2016, the Lions started an official cheerleading squad.
  • The Gotham City Cheerleaders were organized in August 2011 to support all New York sports, but are most closely associated with the Giants. The team has also been known as the New York Unofficials, the Unofficial Dancers of the New York Giants, and the Gotham's Team Blue Army Dancers.[28]
  • The Cleveland Spirit Cheerleaders were created in September 2012 to support the Browns as a test team to attract fan interest.[27] This cheer team was created by the same people responsible for the Detroit Pride.[29]

Male NFL Cheerleaders

Glenn Welt, cheerleader PR & tour photo 1978-1980.

Glenn Welt was the first male to try out as an NFL cheerleader, doing so on May 20, 1978.[citation needed] The Miami Dolphins would not let him compete when he arrived at the Orange Bowl in Miami.[30] The incident later became a nationwide news story, led to a federal anti-discrimination case,[31] and was spoofed on a November 1979 episode of Mork & Mindy.[32] The episode caused plans for a CBS made-for-TV movie starring Robin Williams as Welt to be scrapped, while also misrepresenting Welt and male cheerleaders in general when Williams pranced onto a football field dressed in a female outfit.[33][34][35][36][37][38][39]

Male NFL cheerleaders as dancers for the past few decades have been rare due to social norms and marketability. However, in 1998 the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders were the first cheerleader squad to start using male stuntmen in the squad.

Following trends in dance with popular summer dance series such as the Strictly Come Dancing franchise, So You Think You Can Dance, and World of Dance, where competitions are co-ed, in 2009, the first male dancers were added to National Football League by the Dallas Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys introduced the Rhythm & Blue Dancers, founded by Charlotte Jones and directed by Jenny Durbin Smith, becoming the first co-Ed dance team in NFL history. They perform every home game on stage, half-time and sideline with their dynamic hip hop dancing, stunting, freestyle and tumbling. They are also responsible for the first NFL Drum Corp and in 2017 created a 7-16 year old co-Ed hip hop dance team Dallas Cowboys Rookie Squad. In 2018, the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints adopted male dancers to their dance teams as well.[40]

In 2019, the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers[41] and Philadelphia Eagles added males to their squads, and the Seahawks cheerleaders became the second permanent co-ed squad after the Ravens. In 2021, for the first time, the Panthers TopCats had multiple (3) men make the final team with the Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders also adding a man to their team. Most of the squads' male cheerleaders are involved in stunts.[42]

In most situations, male cheerleaders are typically former college cheerleaders themselves, with a heavy emphasis on stunts and strength training.

Transgender NFL Cheerleaders


In March 2022, Justine Lindsay, a transgender woman, made the Carolina Panthers, becoming the first openly transgender person to cheer in the NFL.[43]

Criticism and controversy


There have been criticisms that NFL cheerleading is sexist, is objectifying women,[44][45][46][47] exploitative,[48] and outdated.[49]

In addition, several cheerleaders have sued their respective teams for violating minimum wage laws, mistreatment from management, exploitative rules and behaviors, sexual harassment, and groping.[50][51][52][53][54] Such injustices regarding the pay and employment treatment of NFL cheerleaders were highlighted in the 2019 documentary film A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem.[55]

However, defenders and proponents of NFL Cheerleading have stated that cheerleading helps young women engage with the NFL at the most visible and prominent level,[56] provide the NFL with role models for its female fans,[57] and are a cost-effective way of promoting a team at events.[citation needed] Also, NFL cheerleading squads have been used as advocates from their teams for female empowerment or LGBT rights.

NFL spokesperson David Tossell in 2013 defended NFL cheerleading by stating, "Cheerleading has a long tradition in the majority of American sports at both professional and amateur levels; Cheerleaders are part of American football culture from youth leagues to the NFL and are part of the game day experience for our fans."[47]

Male NFL cheerleaders have increased in the 2010s to help offset changing societal attitudes and concerns that NFL cheerleading was sexist.[42]

Pro Bowl


A top honor for an NFL Cheerleader is to be selected as a Pro Bowl Cheerleader. The group is composed of an all-star cheerleader (one from each NFL cheer team) that represents her NFL team at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. The Pro Bowl Cheerleaders were founded in 1992 and directed by Jay Howarth and Angela King-Twitero. Each year, one squad member from every NFL team is chosen to participate in the collective Pro Bowl cheerleading squad.[58] They are picked by either their own squads or by the fans via Internet polling.

Notable NFL Cheerleaders


See also



  1. ^ NFL: Everything you need to know about the Professional Cheerleading Organization
  2. ^ "Inside the NFL cheerleaders' fight for fair pay". Marketplace. December 31, 2020. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  3. ^ "Chicago Honey". Chicago Honey Archived from the original on 2017-10-03. Retrieved 2014-03-31.
  4. ^ "Ben-Gals Cheerleaders".
  5. ^ Dallas Cheerleaders History (2007) Retrieved February 8, 2007. Archived February 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ ""Meet one of the first Detroit Lions cheerleaders". Click on Detroit. June 20, 2016. Accessed June 21 2016".
  7. ^ "Detroit Lions to add cheerleaders". Official Site of the Detroit Lions. Detroit Lions, Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  8. ^ Green Bay Packerettes, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Retrieved September 21, 2007
  9. ^ Ex-Packers cheerleader writes winning slogan for fence, September 9, 2007, Retrieved September 21, 2007
  10. ^ Legends on Parade to highlight Packers' Glory Years Archived 2007-11-07 at the Wayback Machine, Green Bay Press-Gazette, August 24, 2007, Retrieved September 21, 2007
  11. ^ Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleaders History (2007) Retrieved February 8, 2007. Archived February 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Oakland Raiderettes History (2007) Retrieved February 8, 2007. Archived September 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Charger Girls History (2007) Retrieved February 8, 2007. Archived February 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders History (2010) Retrieved February 10, 2010.
  15. ^ Steelerettes History (2007) Retrieved February 8, 2007.
  16. ^ Gold Rush History (2007) Archived 2008-11-29 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 8, 2007.
  17. ^ Sea Gals History (2007) Retrieved February 8, 2007. Archived January 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Cheerleaders Home". Retrieved 2007-02-15.
  19. ^ "Cheerleader History". The official site of the Washington Redskins. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-05-20.
  20. ^ "The Full Redskins Cheerleader Story 1962-2004". The official site of the Washington Redskins. Archived from the original on 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
  21. ^ "First Ladies of Football". Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  22. ^ Phillips, Michael (August 7, 2022). "Latest filing with NFL shows Commanders making strides in reforming workplace". Richmond-Times Dispatch. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  23. ^ Plaschke, Bill (January 27, 2011). "No Super Bowl cheerleaders? He says rah!". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  24. ^ "Remember when ... the Cleveland Browns had cheerleaders? Really, they did!". Retrieved 2018-04-28.
  25. ^ "Buffalo Bills cheerleaders suspend operations". Archived from the original on 2014-04-25.
  26. ^ Pumerantz, Zack (October 9, 2011). "Detroit Lions Cheerleaders: The Hottest Pics of the Detroit Pride". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  27. ^ a b "Top 6 NFL Teams Without Cheerleaders". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on 2013-11-30. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
  28. ^ Benton, Dan (September 24, 2012). "Meet the Gotham City Cheerleaders, Unofficial Dancers for All New York Sports". Giants 101. Archived from the original on 2015-09-11. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  29. ^ Bonchak, Jean (September 27, 2012). "Cleveland Spirit cheerleaders coming to Browns Town". The News-Herald. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  30. ^ Walz, Jessica (February 9, 2022). "BRIGHT LIGHTS, CHEERING CROWD! MY LIFE AS AN NFL CHEERLEADER | INSIDE DANCE". Inside Dance. Retrieved 2022-10-23.
  31. ^ U.S. District Court in Florida Case #78-5647
  32. ^ "Robin Williams -- First and BEST Male Broncos Cheerleader". TMZ.
  33. ^ TV Guide 11-24-1979
  34. ^ Washington Post 6-23-1979
  35. ^ Newsweek 11-26-1979
  36. ^ Cheerleader story 5-27-1978 The Free Lance-Star
  37. ^ The Miami News 7-29-1980
  38. ^ Gadsden Times 2-1-1979
  39. ^ The Evening Independent 7-30-1980
  40. ^ Williams, David (August 6, 2018). "NFL's first male dancers will hit the sidelines this season". CNN.
  41. ^ "Lorenzo Gilbert becomes first openly gay, male Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader". April 17, 2019.
  42. ^ a b Bob Condotta (June 3, 2019). "Goodbye, Sea Gals: New Seahawks Dancers include men". The Seattle Times.
  43. ^ "Carolina Panthers' Justine Lindsay is the First Openly Trans NFL Cheerleader". June 6, 2022.
  44. ^ Ryan, Shannon. "Time for NFL to end use of cheerleaders".
  45. ^ Krattenmaker, Tom (August 9, 2018). "NFL cheerleading is demeaning to women. It's time to end this nonsense". USA TODAY.
  46. ^ Bennett, Jessica (April 7, 2018). "Is It Time to Rethink the Rules for N.F.L. Cheerleaders?". The New York Times.
  47. ^ a b McGowan, Tom (October 25, 2013). "NFL cheerleaders: Gratuitous sexism or all-American fun?". CNN.
  48. ^ Vikmanis, Laura; Sohn, Amy (April 12, 2018). "Opinion | Little to Cheer About". The New York Times.
  49. ^ Armour, Nancy (April 18, 2018). "No place in the NFL for cheerleaders in 2018". USA TODAY.
  50. ^ "Houston Texans cheerleaders sue NFL team for discrimination". BBC News. June 1, 2018.
  51. ^ Gleeson, Scott (May 15, 2017). "Oakland Raiders cheerleaders collect on $1.25 million class-action settlement". USA TODAY.
  52. ^ Mihoces, Gary (May 6, 2014). "Former Jets cheerleader sues team over alleged low pay". USA TODAY.
  53. ^ "Ex-cheerleaders offer to end lawsuit against NFL for $1: 'This was never about money'". ABC News.
  54. ^ "Buffalo Bills cheerleaders suspend operations". April 25, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-04-25. Retrieved 2023-01-02.
  55. ^ "'They Have a Voice': New Documentary 'A Woman's Work' Exposes Pay Disparity NFL Cheerleaders Face".
  56. ^ "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel - August 2018". HBO.
  57. ^ "How to Fix Cheerleading in the NFL - Sports Illustrated".
  58. ^ "Pro Bowl Cheerleaders". National Football League. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
  59. ^ "Stacy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2006-08-08 – via
  60. ^ "Former Patriots cheerleader thrives in WWE NXT". New England Patriots. June 1, 2016. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  61. ^ "California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office > Newsroom > Notable Alumni > Teri Hatcher". Archived from the original on 2017-08-09. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
  62. ^ Guerrero, Lisa (November 13, 2008). "Lisa Guerrero: It seemed like a good idea at the time". The Fabulous Forum. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  63. ^ "Patriots Cheerleaders: Where Are They Now? - Camille Kostek". Retrieved 2019-06-15.

Further reading


  Media related to National Football League cheerleaders at Wikimedia Commons