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Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are arguably the most iconic squad in all of the NFL, so one might think that they are paid handsomely for their surfaces. That’s why it might surprise you to learn that this isn’t the case at all.

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Salary Controversy

Bro Bible reported that in the past, cheerleaders with the Dallas Cowboys NFL team were paid an abysmal $8 per hour, which is less than minimum wage. Shockingly, some days the cheerleaders weren’t paid at all for their work, and this mode of payment went on for decades.

Thanks to a landmark court case and efforts by former Cowboys cheerleader Erika Wilkins, however, that has all changed. These days, the Cowboys cheerleaders earn $12 an hour and are paid $400 for every game-day appearance. This allows some senior cheerleaders on the team to make as much as $75,000 a year.

This came after Wilkins took the Cowboys to court back in 2017. She claimed that she sometimes earned less than minimum wage as a cheerleader for the team. This was a slap in the face, as the Cowboys as a franchise were worth $5 billion at the time.

“My first year on the team working for the Cowboys I made approximately $5,000 and the highest that I ever made my third year on the team was $16,000,” Wilkins told WFAA, adding that the Cowboys paid cheerleaders $8 an hour when she was on the team and on game day only made $200 each.

I remember I did an out-of-town appearance. It was my first year on the team meaning I’m making $100 flat rate for that appearance,” Wilkins lamented. “I think it ended up being like a 16-hour day and I was paid a flat rate of $100 plus taxes being taken out of that. I think it was $88.”

Related: The Packers Almost Made The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Cry After Getting In Their Faces: Report

Cheerleaders Made Much Less Than Cowboys Mascot

Wilkins had dreamed about being a Cowboys cheerleader since she was a little girl.

“The Dallas Cowboys sent out scouts to approach girls at dance competitions and when I was approached I was 16,” she recalled.

It didn’t take long for her to become disillusioned. Wilkins was particularly horrified to find out that while she and her fellow cheerleaders sometimes didn’t make minimum wage, the Cowboys’ mascot Rowdy made up to $60,000 a year.

“We’ve talked about the unhappiness that we feel and the unfairness, but no one speaks out about it,” she said. “No one says anything because everyone is too afraid.”

Related: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Are Showing Off Their Christmas Outfits – Naughty Or Nice?

Wilkins Settles With Cowboys

Wilkins ultimately settled the case with the Cowboys in 2019.

“When you look at this big picture, what you see is a franchise who does not appear to value their women,” Michelle Simpson Tuegel, a Dallas attorney who represents athletes but wasn’t directly involved in Wilkins case.

“They’re not asking to be paid millions of dollars,” she continued. “I think this complaint is clear that what they’re asking for is the minimum standard of what federal wage requirements are and equal pay with the mascot who is a male.”

After she settled with the Cowboys, Wilkins was happy to see the team increase pay from $8 an hour to $12 and their game-day pay doubled from $200 to $400.

It’s scary to speak out about this, especially by myself,” she concluded. “But how else is a change gonna be made if we all just stay quiet?”

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders have always been a major part of the team’s brand. So it’s sad that they were so grossly underpaid until just a few years ago. Here’s hoping that the Dallas Cowboys’ higher-ups value their cheerleaders more in the future!