National Football League Cheerleading
National Football League Cheerleading, or simply NFL Cheerleading, is a professional cheerleading league in the United States. For many NFL teams, their franchise also includes a cheerleading squad. Cheerleaders are a popular attraction that can give a team more coverage/airtime, popular local support and increased media image. For the NFL, The Baltimore Colts were the first team in the NFL to have cheerleaders in 1954. They were also a part of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band.
According to most NFL cheerleading sites, cheerleading is classified as a part-time job. However, this "part-time" job is a substantial commitment of time for practice, camp, games, appearances, photo shoots, and charity events.
Most often, cheerleaders have completed or are attending a university, and continue on to other careers after cheering for an average of 1-4 seasons.
Apart from their main duties of cheering during the football games, the cheerleaders have many other responsibilities. 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, lingerie, or uniforms. As well as being a mainstay of American football culture, the cheerleaders are one of the biggest entertainment groups to regularly perform for the U.S. Military overseas. All performances and tours are 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 8 along with their choreographer into the war zone of Iraq.
As of 2006, a competition strictly for NFL cheerleaders was introduced on The NFL Network, called NFL Cheerleader Playoffs. Two girls from each cheerleading team compete against other mini-teams in various athletic events. This includes kayaking, 100 yd. dash, obstacle courses, and more.
As of 2014, seven teams do not have cheerleading squads: Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The February 2011 meeting of the Packers and Steelers at Super Bowl XLV was the first time a Super Bowl featured no cheerleaders. The Packers do however use a collegiate squad from time to time in a limited role to cheer at home games.
Teams of "unofficial" cheerleaders began emerging in 2010 for NFL teams that don't have their own dance squad. These unofficial cheerleaders aren't 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 simiar 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.
A top honor for an NFL Cheerleader is to be selected as 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.