There are crazy rules governing how NFL cheerleaders act, look, and weigh

Elise Solé

NFL cheerleaders are banned from wearing sweatpants in public, pressured to lose weight, and have tightly controlled social media habits, according to a story published in the New York Times.

On Monday, the paper published a jaw-dropping look at the lives of NFL cheerleaders subjected to harsh team restrictions. For example, the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders must arrive at the stadium five hours early on game days, are allowed water breaks at specific times, must remove or cover up tattoos and piercings, and can’t change into their own clothing until after leaving the stadium.

The Times also reported that per a 2009 handbook, the Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders underwent regular weigh-ins,and the Cincinnati Ben-Gals are required to weigh within three pounds of their “ideal weight.”

According to a new report, cheerleaders for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers are allowed water breaks only when players are on offense. (Photo: Getty Images)

Last week, Bailey Davis, 22, a former cheerleader for the New Orleans Saintsations, filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging she was fired for posting an Instagram photo of herself wearing a one-piece bathing suit.

Davis said after she posted the photo, she received a text message from the team’s senior director that read: “Very poor judgment to post a picture like that especially considering our recent conversations about the rumors going around about u. This does not help your case. I’d expect you to know better” in regard to reports that Davis had socialized with a football player, a violation of the anti-fraternization policy which punishes cheerleaders — not players — for socializing with each other.

On Monday, Davis told Cosmopolitan that during her firing, the HR director “told me I had a dirty face in the photo” adding, “Then there were all the rules about the players. “No fraternization,” so I couldn’t ever be in the same place as a player. If I were eating in a restaurant and a player walks in, I had to leave. We couldn’t follow them on Instagram, or like their pictures. If an official photo from the Saints account was a photo of a player alone, we couldn’t like the photo. If they tried to follow me on Instagram or liked my photos, I was to block them and report it to HR. If a player spoke to me in person, I could only use two phrases: “hello” or “good game.” Anything past that was fraternizing. I was supposed to end the conversation and walk away from them.

The Oakland Raiders Raiderettes aren’t allowed to chew gum. (Photo: Getty Images)

Other outrageous cheerleader rules: In 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Oakland Raiderettes were not allowed to chew gum or wear hair curlers on the way to work. And in the dining section of their etiquette handbook, cheerleaders were advised “if you don’t like your meal, try a little of everything and strategically move the rest around your plate.” And, “Gently unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. Fold it almost in half and place it with the fold side toward your body. If you need to leave the table, place the napkin on your chair, and don’t forget to say, ‘Excuse me.’”

While the Raiderettes aren’t flat-out forbidden from dating football players, relationships are strongly discouraged, reported the Los Angeles Times. “One such example concerns a player who gave Halloween parties every year and many of the Raiderettes attended. This same player was suspended from the team for drug use but also arrested for date rape. For you on the squad who have attended those parties, just think how narrowly you missed having your photo in all the local papers and/or being assaulted.”

The former Buffalo Jills cheerleaders filed a lawsuit against their management company for paying them minimum wage and forcing them to work for free on certain days. (Photo: Getty Images)

And in 2014, five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders known as the Jills (the team suspended its operations) filed a lawsuit against the team’s management company for not paying the women minimum wages, requiring them to work for free on certain days, and experiencing sexual harassment. The lawsuit also claimed the women were forced to undergo rituals such as weekly “Jiggle Tests” to ensure extra skin didn’t flop around.

Per the lawsuit, “During the test, defendants scrutinized the women’s stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks. The physique evaluations largely determine whether or not any particular Jill would be allowed to perform at the Bills’ next home game. Jills that failed to meet defendants’ physical standards received warnings, and in some cases were penalized, suspended or dismissed.”

According to CNN, the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, and New York Jets have all been sued by their respective cheerleading teams for wage violations.

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