Anyone who’s ever been to an NFL game or watched one on TV has doubtless noticed the cheerleaders. Indeed, it’s impossible not to as the NFL to promote these women as eye candy, placing them prominently in front of the stands and having the TV cameras take brief breaks in the action to focus on their uniforms and, um, various features.
Given that combination, they do tend to generate a lot of interest, most of which stems from the fact that most NFL cheerleaders are preternaturally attractive. Which leads to one of the most frequently asked questions-can NFL cheerleaders be married? The answer is yes, technically speaking, but there are plenty of rules, written and otherwise when it comes to being an NFL cheerleader, so let’s take a little peek behind the cheerleading curtain.
Rules and Regs
The irony of being an NFL cheerleader is that for all their visibility, the rules different teams have for their appearance and conduct are secretly guarded with a zealousness generally reserved for the nuclear codes.
Being married is a part of this. The NFL wants its audience to believe that cheerleaders are single and available, as unlikely as that might seem, so it’s safe to assume that there are unwritten rules that cheerleaders downplay the fact that they’re married, even if their basic life is that of a soccer mom.
Some of the other rules, both written and unwritten, are downright Draconian. Nearly a decade ago, there was a media kerfuffle when someone got a hold of the handbooks that were supposedly given to cheerleaders from Seattle and Oakland, who were respectfully (or not) dubbed the Sea Gals and the Raiderettes.
The rules sound like they come from a different century, which they most likely did. The rules for the Sea Gals, for instance, extended all the way down to gum chewing, in addition to the usual caveats about drinking, drug use, smoking and any other activity that might reflect badly on the organization.
Physical appearance is another landmine altogether. Weight gain, muscle tone, and the condition of hair and skin were supposedly covered in these handbooks, with offenses in each of these areas considered “cause” for dismissal.
But even the monolithic dinosaur that is the NFL changes over time, and some of these rules have thankfully gone the way of all souls. NFL cheerleaders still look like supermodels for the most part, but you probably won’t find that as a requirement in a handbook anywhere.
Not only that, but some teams have actually engaged in forward-thinking when it comes to cheerleader presentation. NFL cheerleading squads are essentially money-making and visibility entities designed to promote a positive image for the teams and the league, and as such they’re out in the community a lot, mostly doing charity events and public appearances.
In some instances, teams are now promoting aspects of their cheerleaders other than their physical appearance. These include a college pedigree, advanced degrees, athletic achievements, and yes, even being a successful mom with a fabulous husband and a happy family.
They haven’t exactly come a long way, baby, but due to a series of lawsuits against the league and the team, NFL cheerleaders have moved a lot closer to being treated like real people rather than sex objects.
The Fraternization Issue
No discussion of NFL cheerleaders would be complete without at least touching on the fraternization issues. Specifically, the same questions tend to arise: Are cheerleaders allowed to date players? Can they marry one?
These are natural questions given the attractiveness of the cheerleaders and the wealth, looks, and athleticism of the players, but most teams have strict rules against this. Teams may look the other way away from their facilities, but in some cases, these rules also extend to coaches, management personnel, and even the mascot.
It does happen, though. The most well-known case is likely that of now-retired Washington tight end Chris Cooley, who made no secret of the fact that he was in love with a team cheerleader, Christy Oglevee, and that he wanted to marry her.
Cooley was so public in his desire to marry Oglevee that the team was forced to back off and allow true love to take its course. Unfortunately, though, true love also included an eventual trip to divorce court, and in 2012 Cooley and Oglevee called it quits after four years of marital bliss, which may or may not have been a justification for whatever rules were in place.