Monday, October 19, 2009

Three Cheers For the Free Market!

Okay, so the Redskins are playing crap football, but how about them cheerleaders! Lookin' fine, ladies, lookin' fine!

Speaking of cheerleaders, Gregg Easterbrook argues in his excellent Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, that NFL cheerleaders are woefully underpaid. He argues that they are, in fact, professional performers, and should be paid accordingly.

EASTERBROOK: Cheer-babes dancing in short skirts, or posing for swimsuit calendars, is not exploitation. After all, you're supposed to look at the cheerleaders! Professional athletics is foremost a form of entertainment, and the scantily-clad dancing girl has a long history as integral to entertainment in theatrical arts as well as sport.

It is, however, objectionable if everyone involved in an NFL contest is making buckets of money, except for the cheerleaders. That's the case, and that is a form of exploitation. The NFL will have about $8 billion in revenue this season, and Green Bay, the one team that discloses financial information (the Packers are publicly owned), showed a profit of $20 million last year. There's plenty of money in professional football. But only crumbs go to the cheerleaders. NFL teams are believed to pay cheerleaders approximately $100 per game. (Several teams used to post cheerleader audition FAQs on their Web sites that included such info.) Some throw in two game tickets. Don't spend it all in the same place!

Cheerleader squads practice twice a week, and in most cases, cheerleaders are not paid for practicing. Some are charged to audition. They make unpaid charity appearances. In order to become cheerleaders, they sign away "subsidiary rights" to their images -- use in advertising, on swimsuit calendars and so on. Being a NFL cheerleader is glamorous and can entail exciting travel. Many women who take up this very time-consuming hobby would rather be cheerleaders receiving only token pay than not be cheerleaders. But that should not be the choice. "Do it cheap or we'll find someone else who will" is manipulation. Cheerleaders are professional performers and deserve decent pay.

REACT: Easterbook is brilliant 90% of the time, but this one is the equivalent of a pick-6 the other way. In fact, it sounds a lot like a deep and repressed liberal urge gurgling forth against the tide of his otherwise sensible, free market intellect.

NFL cheerleaders are paid exactly what they are worth. They may even be over-paid. How do I know this? Because the NFL has had no problem filling their cheer squads for this price. Ergo: the price is right. The market has spoken.

Trying to staff a cheer squad for a much lesser league at this price, would likely run you into personnel shortages or weight issues. The National Football League, however, carries tremendous resume value for these ladies. It carries community status, it carries secondary value that far exceeds the $100 bucks a game.

If this was not true, then you wouldn't need tryouts. You would just take the first 12 who volunteered.

As for being “professional performers” this is a stretch. Technically, yes. They perform, and they get paid. Pros. But outside of this, NFL cheerleaders have not gone through any certified training program. Many of them, did not cheer in college. And aside from a few practices during the week, during the season, its not as if they train prior to the season.

Furthermore, in the looks category (both body and face) most of these ladies would be unable to make it as strippers. Sure, many might not want to do that. But I am fairly certain a number of them would. It certainly pays more than $100 a week.

The problem with Easterbook's argument, is that he's basically spending other people's money. Sure, the NFL is a battleship loaded with gold. They could easily “afford” to pay these ladies 10x as much per game.

But what is a “fair” or “decent” wage?

Easterbrook, declined to say. With good reason. There is no firm number, because such a salary would be arbitrarily above market value.
And you just know that once you start paying these ladies more, they'll ask for more. If they bump it to $1000 per game, they'll also want higher appearance fees. Sick days. You name it. Pretty soon, they'll organize, and go on strike.

Easterbook plays the exploitation card here, but he's way off.


  1. You are right on the money with this one. I worked with a Broncos cheerleader, she did it for the fun and status of it not the money. It was hard work for her and when she didn't have the time anymore for it she didn't try out again.

    Many use it as a launching pad for modeling, acting or dancing and others just do it for the fun of it. Do you ever see a lack of women trying out for cheerleading squads?

  2. If there were no cheerleaders at NFL games nobody would notice, but it would be quite noticable if there weren't any beer vendors. Who's more valuable???

  3. Don't disagree with your point but Easterbrook is a conservative, and probably more of a libetrarian (sp?)

  4. Steve- you are way off on this. If I recall some of your many rants on college athletics, you have advocated the same argument to pay those athletes as Mr. Easterbrook does for these cheerleaders. Before I state more, I will let you know that I am a raging conservative and believe in the free market. However, the federal and local governements enforce a minimum wage so that employers do not hire a bunch of illegal immigrants to work for $2 an hour. They mandate workers comp so injured employees get compensated when hurt on the job. So paying a group of girls a decent wage for practicing and personal appearances and their likeness is not an unreasonable request.


  5. I agree with Czabe. As a Steelers fan, I never miss them at Heinz Field. But when I attended last year's MNF game in DC, I admit they were nice to look at during breaks in the game.

    It sounds like Easterbrook is just trying to get into the pants of a cheerleader he met.

  6. I don't know if the cheerleaders are profitable. You would have to look to see if they sell any extra tickets and how much money their calendars take in. If you look at how much the costumes, I mean, uniforms cost and travelling expenses, my hunch is they probably lose money for the team. So why do they deserve to be paid more?

    I personally couldn't care less if they went away.

  7. I agree with Terry on this. It sounds like someone was getting a little TLC from a cheerleader and sugguested he write that article during some Pillow talk fiasco. Fiasco *is* the right word there.