You would agree that NBA cheerleaders are a significant part of the game because they keep the fans entertained between, during, and after the competition. It is only fair that the salary of NBA cheerleaders matches their value – right?
Whoever came up with the idea of cheerleading was a genius. There’s something about a group of female dancers performing choreographed moves on a basketball court that fits into the electric atmosphere of the arena.
Take a look at this video of the Miami Heats cheerleaders if you ever forget how much fun it is to watch NBA cheerleaders perform:
In recent years, there has been some debate on how well the NBA cheerleaders that bring so much joy to the game are compensated for their efforts.
In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need about the subject. This post will highlight the range of NBA cheerleaders’ salaries, see if they get paid well enough, analyze their payment structure, and determine their rates.
Also, we will reveal the top 10 highest paid NBA cheerleaders and what it takes to become one.
How Much do NBA Cheerleaders Earn?
Due to the high-energy performance on this job and its link to the NBA, the third most profitable league globally, one would expect these cheerleaders to earn the big bucks.
According to reports from a study conducted, the median wage of dancers working in spectator sports (NBA cheerleaders included) was about $14.58 an hour.
According to ESPN, the minimum salary for NBA cheerleaders was around $75 per game. And at the same time, the apex cheerleaders of popular teams earn about $150 for every match on average.
Following some recent reports, the NFL pays its new cheerleaders roughly the same salary range. However, the more experienced cheerleaders have salaries between $500 and $700 per game.
Salary Structure of NBA Cheerleaders?
As you may have guessed, the salary of NBA cheerleaders works on a per-game basis. According to law, they are freelancers or independent contractors; hence, they may not enjoy the benefits and insurance that regular employees do.
Let’s break down their salary structure to find out how they get paid:
This part of their payment plan is a bit uneven as different cheerleading teams have varying policies. However, most of them maintain an eight-hour-a-week practice schedule.
Some NBA cheerleaders reported that they were paid for practice sessions, which is as it should. In contrast, others don’t.
Also, some teams claim to get paid roughly $30 to $50 per session.
Being an NBA cheerleader may also come with special perks. Again, these benefits are dependent on the policies of individual teams across the league. Let’s take a brief rundown of some of the most common benefits:
- Some earn $50 for guest appearances during special events
- Travel expenses are covered for teams that cheer in the NBA All-Star game
- Cheerleaders get free tickets and parking for games
- NBA teams that reach the playoffs pay their cheerleaders more
Do NBA Cheerleaders Get Paid Enough?
If you recall, we established that the salary of NBA cheerleaders ranges between $75 and $150 per game.
Generally, it is pretty easy to get the misconception that these cheerleaders earn huge buck within the space of 3 – 6 hours. However, you would see that most of these cheerleaders feel underpaid when you take an in-depth look.
The moment you begin to consider everything that goes into the job (mental and physical efforts), you get to understand that it isn’t enough.
Another reason to fault NBA basketball teams is that they make so much money every season – $263.87 million went to the average team in the 2019/20 season.
The situation looks even messier when you remember that these cheerleaders are mainly independent contractors, so they don’t get most worker’s benefits.
For example, NBA cheerleading independent contractors do not receive any health insurance or benefits.
This means that all the stress and damage to their bodies through exertion would get paid through their pockets, thereby shortening their salaries.
The Lauren Herington 2017 Controversy
In 2017, a three-year lawsuit between an NBA cheerleader and the Milwaukee Bucks ended. The pro-cheerleader, Lauren Herington, claimed Milwaukee Bucks failed to adhere to the law of the U.S.’s Fair Labour Standard Act.
She earned an hourly pay of $4.5 per hour for each game which is considerably lower than the standard minimum wage. The lawsuit only cost the Bucks $250,000 in a settlement, and Laura herself got $10,000 of that. The rest of the payoff went to her lawyers and some of her fellow dancers.
Generally, there are more cases of underpayment in the NBA cheerleading industry, but many of these women do not speak out about it. And some of those who file lawsuits against NBA teams and other leagues don’t end up succeeding.
Do NBA cheerleaders get paid well enough? Generally speaking, they don’t. But, there are some highly experienced and famous cheerleaders earning the big bucks.
Top 10 Highest Paid Cheerleaders in the NBA
This section will reveal the ten highest-paid cheerleaders in the NBA.
1. New York Knicks Cheerleaders ($35,000 per annum)
These are the dancers of the famous New York Knicks basketballers running for over twenty-five years. These cheerleaders earn about $650 for every game, with extra bonuses going as high as $2,000 during NBA playoffs.
2. Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders ($35,000 per annum)
The Atlanta Hawks Cheer is a group of twenty-five female dancers performing acrobatic stunts to thrill fans. This team earns roughly about $650 for every match. And their skills in high-performance dancing make them earn as much as they do.
3. LA Lakers Cheerleaders ($30,000 per annum)
The ever-famous LA Laker cheerleading squad makes an annual earning of about $30,000. This team of female dancers was started in 1979 by Jerry Buss after purchasing the Lakers. Currently, there are about nineteen female dancers in the squad earning $600 per game – potential $1,500 bonuses.
4. Boston Celtics Cheerleaders ($30,000 per annum)
This cheerleading team is popularly known as the Boston Celtics Green Team, and New Balance represents them. It is a high-energy performing team earning about $600 per game. They perform tricking, acrobatics, and break dancing techniques.
5. Golden State Warriors Cheerleaders ($30,000 per annum)
The Golden State Warrior Girls are one of the NBA’s top earners, racking up $550 per game. They also get a thousand-dollar bonus for their efforts. Their mostly hip-hop-themed routines at every GSW game certainly deserve the compensation.
6. Miami Heat Cheerleaders ($28,000 per annum)
The Miami Heat Dancers is a group of about fifteen energetic cheerleaders. This team of dancers performs mind-blowing stunts and professional acrobatics – earning them about $500 per game and $28,000 annually.
7. Toronto Raptors Cheerleaders ($28,000 per annum)
This group consists of about twenty-three female dancers performing stunting choreographed dance. They earn about $500 for every game they perform their acrobatic dancing moves.
8. Washington Wizards Cheerleaders ($28,000 per annum)
This group of charismatic, energetic, and entertaining dancers has a strong connection with the fans. At every performing game by the Washington Wizards, this choreographed dance group earns about $400.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers Cheerleaders ($28,000 per annum)
This dance group is of the Cleveland Cavaliers open to both men and women performing dancers. This group performs high-level tricks, tumbling, and dynamic choreography, earning them about $400 per game.
10. Indiana Pacers Cheerleaders ($28,000 per annum)
This is a group of highly professional dancers supporting the Indiana Pacers club. It initially started in 1967, known as the Marathon Scoreboard Girls. Today, the team’s professionalism earns them about $400 per game and $1,000 in match bonuses.
What Determines the Rate of an NBA Cheerleader
NBA teams consider certain factors before setting the salaries of cheerleaders or hiring them as part of an elite team.
This is one of the most significant reasons you might earn more or less. As earlier stated, the more experienced NBA cheerleaders earn more than the newbie or supporting cheerleaders. Before getting hired into a team, your experience will serve as a factor; this allows them to rank you and place your pay grade properly.
Generally, all NBA cheerleaders or dancers tend to have a fit and slightly slim body shape. If you look out of shape and lack flexibility, there is a high chance of you not getting the job. And if you do get the job, your payment will be considerably lower than others with a fit body shape.
The Teams’ Expenses
Aside from the employers wanting to match cheerleaders’ expertise to a certain salary, the team expenses are the top priority. They check how much the team makes, minuses every player’s salary, other expenses, and overall profit. Depending on the total profit the team incurs, cheerleaders get paid accordingly.
Just like having experience, your ability to dance and make the right moves at the precise time plays a significant role in your salary rate. During the audition, you are usually well observed, and the judges place you in a category. Generally, they don’t always pay high, so a lazy or subpar dancer will be paid lower.
What it Takes to Become an NBA Cheerleader
Becoming an NBA cheerleader requires you to possess certain attributes. This section will focus on what it takes to become an NBA cheerleader.
The standard minimum age for being a cheerleader at the NBA is twenty-one. However, some cheerleading team might set their age restrictions to eighteen.
To become an NBA cheerleader, you must be able to maintain a certain height-to-weight ratio. Your body must allow you to perform vigorous, high-performance dancing.
The cheerleading team isn’t your dance school – although they would teach you moves to follow, you need to possess a certain level of dancing skills. However, most cheerleaders are dancers, and it is mainly part of the job requirement.
You must know how to communicate with the crowd. Don’t just dance to yourself; move along with the public and get fans excited.
Mainly, NBA cheerleading will require at least 8 hours weekly for practice. You would need to have a flexible schedule to mix cheerleading with your regular day-to-day activities.
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NBA cheerleading salary has for a long time been a touchy subject for too many dancers. The basketball teams that control them continue to assure dancers of their respect and high valuation of the art. However, words don’t seem to be enough.
There is every possibility of cases like Lauren Herington’s to repeat themselves. Nevertheless, the love for cheerleaders by the fans might cause team owners to reconsider salary rate in the near future.