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NBA Cheerleader Pay Scale
Cheerleading in today’s NBA consists of such complex dance moves that to even audition to be an LA Laker Girl requires eight years of dance experience. Though many organizations barely pay minimum wage, the court is as fiercely competitive for the dancers as it is for the players. There is the dream that with national television exposure you may follow in the dance steps of Laker Girl turned superstar Paula Abdul.
Game and Practice Pay
NBA cheerleaders make from $50 to $150 per game, depending on the team. They are also paid for a certain number of practice hours per week. The Seattle Sonics organization pays dancers up to $65 per game for 41 games, and $10 an hour for six hours of practice per week during the season. Dancers usually work out and practice on their own time as well.
Courts, Legislation and Minimum Wage
In 2015, a former cheerleader sued the Milwaukee Bucks in a Wisconsin federal court, stating that she had received less than minimum wage when she calculated the number of hours she worked for her pay. She settled for $250,000 in 2017.
In 2015, California passed a bill requiring all professional cheerleaders to be treated as employees, guaranteeing California cheerleaders, including the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers and the Clippers will receive at least $9 per hour.
Personal Appearances Make a Difference
Many dancers are students or work another part-time job. They must be available for personal appearances, where they can make $100 per hour or more. In the larger markets, this makes a considerable difference in their income. The jobs website Indeed, for instance, has listed the annual salary of all sports' professional cheerleaders ranging as high as $28,000 in New York City to $18,000 or lower in San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
- Indeed: Professional Cheerleader Salary
- Newsmax: Paula Abdul Makes Lakers Dancer Confession to Arsenio Hall
- Seattle Times: Local Pro Cheerleaders Steppin' Out
- New York Times: Dancing for the Knicks Is a Coveted Opportunity, but the Salary Is a Secret
- NBA: Lakers: Laker Girls
- DanceSpirit: 20 Seasons with the Knicks City Dancers
- New York Times: NBA Cheerleaders' New Rallying Cry: Better Pay
- Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Bucks, Former Dancer Settle Class-Action Labor Lawsuit
Nate Lee was senior editor of Chicago's "NewCity" newspaper and creative director in a global advertising agency. A playwright and published poet, Lee writes about the arts, culture and business innovation. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Tulane University.