The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
So established are the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders that even Jerry Jones couldn’t ruin them. Longtime Cowboys fans may remember a four-day offseason spat in June 1989 in which 14 cheerleaders quit when informed of new owner Jones’ plans to trim the cheerleaders’ uniforms and relax policies against fraternizing with team employees and promoting alcohol. The public outcry that ensued forced Jones to back off any changes to ex-general manager Tex Schramm’s brainchild.
In 1972, Schramm, the man who put the star on the Cowboys’ helmets, scrapped the high school boys and girls who cheered games in sweaters and long skirts and pants in favor of a handpicked dance team dressed in high-cut shorts and bare midriffs. They were going for a sexy-but-wholesome aesthetic, hiring young professional women and governing them with strict rules. The uniforms and the rules would remain largely the same, with the rest of the NFL taking note and modeling their cheerleaders after Schramm’s.
The team faced criticism from feminists who noted the most prominent females in sports were scantily-clad side acts. But America embraced the new look, and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders became a cultural phenomenon—with their own posters, calendars, “Making of . . . ” shows and even a full-length 1979 made-for-TV movie (watch the whole thing below!) starring Bert Convy and Lauren (“Love Boat”) Tewes.
For better or worse, the cheerleading tradition has persevered in the NFL. In 2013, 26 six teams had official cheerleading squads—only the Bears, Browns, Giants, Lions, Packers, Steelers did not. Those six may be joined next season by the Bills: Their squad, the Jills, suspended operations after five cheerleaders filed a lawsuit over compensation, and what the plaintiffs call degrading treatment.
— Robert Klemko
Photograph courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.