Who would it be? A camera panned up and down the field as the audience sat wondering who would receive the honor. She apparently did it quite well, or well enough that she was chosen to represent the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders in Honolulu. Too bad that the Redskins fans will never know who she really is. As the NFL labor wars move from the courtroom to press conference and back, all the talk centers on fairness: At the table are the players, the former players, and the owners, all of whom are fighting to get even richer.
Matthew Beck At a Sterling, Va. Inside, cheer director Stephanie Jojokian leads a stable of current and former cheerleaders, makeup artists, hairstylists, and spray-tanners in airing their tips for making the squad. The average investment in an NFL cheerleader audition extends far beyond the know-how.
How bad do you want it? Later, spray-tanners from Ninotch invite the women to cake on one of its 22 custom-blended organic skin tints, with extended spraying hours available pre-audition.
You want to see they have body in their hair. Shampoo, blow dry, flat iron, curl. After the spiel, hopefuls page through a rack of sparkly spandex two-pieces from The Line Up. Aspiring cheerleaders looking for a leg up can always cinch an advanced degree.
The Redskins website publishes a collection of photos illustrating the essential character of a Redskinette: At Project Cheerleader, women sporting two-inch inseams emphasize their academic qualifications. Cheerleader Buffy is working on her doctorate in physical therapy. Talmesha is a Ph. A salaryman looking for a job in corporate administration invests big dollars in suits, cufflinks, and ties. An aspiring professional athlete sinks bank into trainers and diet.
Redskins cheerleaders also receive a pair of season tickets. According to cheerleader testimonials at Project Cheerleader, women attend two to five mandatory practices each week, which sometimes start at 6 p.
Cheerleaders must learn their choreography on their own time, studying DVDs of routines before key practices. Throughout the summer, the women practice as a squad. Once the season starts, game days can be hour affairs.
She hits the shower, does her hair and makeup, and arrives at FedExField by 7: Each spring, cheerleaders set aside eight full days for the organization, too. Several cheerleaders appeared with only footballs, hands, or pink roses covering their breasts. Others just wore paint. In shoot videos published on the team website — which sidle up to ads from Verizon and Audi — the women romp in the surf and dish about what they look for in guys.
Each year, the Redskins make each cheerleader available for more than 20 official appearances, where they dance, sign autographs, and pose for photos at private parties and corporate events.
The women occupy significant real estate on the team website, where their highly clickable photos lounge next to ad space for Kenny Chesney, Bank of America, and Toyota.
Cheerleaders in bikinis wash your car. This is where gridiron sexism hits with full force. Football players are paid for the use of their likeness thanks to a group licensing agreement with the NFL Players Association, but the cheerleaders have no such deal. As part of their agreement with the team to become cheerleaders, they understand that they will not be paid additionally if their likeness is used in this manner.
Our office doesn't get involved. But you might not be able to run a team as financially successful as the Redskins. And at Project Cheerleader, prospective beach beauties are instilled with the tremendous significance of making money for the Redskins, if not for themselves. So it made me giggle that this lady had this perception that we make a lot of money. Other women sign up in the hopes of going on to careers in modeling, acting, or dance. Several cheerleaders have moved on to other high-profile positions in the beauty circuit: Janet Patrick is wife to sportscaster Mike.
Redskins cheerleaders are members of an elite club, one that Real Housewives star Michaele Salahi infamously attempted to infiltrate. During the regular season, Cheyenne and her mother, Kimberly, make the mile commute from Mount Jackson, Va. And no level of front-and-center career success can dampen the cultural cache of a spot on the sidelines. Redskins cheerleaders are engineers, Ph. And that day job sure comes in handy. Institutional traditions prevent Redskins cheerleaders from really making names for themselves.
The oldest cheerleader in NFL history is 42 years old. In all official capacities, current cheerleaders—including those quoted in this story—are identified only by their first names. Matthew Beck Gregg Easterbrook loves what the cheerleaders do, too. If that's not exploitation, what is? The men involved are paid huge amounts of money. And the women involved are shafted.
The NFL rakes in billions each year. Cheerleaders are part of the football culture people pay to see. So why aren't they being paid fairly? Would we ever have to ask this question about the men on the field?