Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.
Featured Article: “The College Athletes Who Are Allowed to Make Big Bucks: Cheerleaders” by Tess DeMeyer
The National Collegiate Athletic Association has rules that prevent college athletes from using their fame to make money. But because cheerleading is not governed by the N.C.A.A., its participants can sign lucrative endorsement deals that would lead to punishment for players of other sports. Indeed, some cheerleaders have made thousands of dollars through social media ads and brand partnerships.
Do you think this is fair? In this lesson, you’ll read more about the ways college cheerleaders have profited from their fame and then weigh in on the debate.
Read the following statement:
College cheerleaders should be able to make money through things like endorsement deals, brand partnerships and sponsored social media posts.
To what extent do you agree with this claim? Decide where you stand on the continuum below:
Then write a few sentences explaining your position. Share your response with a partner or a small group and listen to their ideas with an open mind. If, after hearing what your classmates have to say, you want to change your mind, move your position on the continuum and explain why you moved.
Note to teachers: If you are in a classroom context, you can conduct this as a Barometer activity, having students line up based on their position. If you are teaching remotely, see these tips for translating the activity online from our friends at Facing History and Ourselves.
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. The author opens by listing the events Jamie Andries has cheered at, as well as her sponsorship deals. Why do you think the author begins this way? What point is she trying to make?
2. Why can cheerleaders earn money while other college athletes cannot?
3. How have some college cheerleaders turned their fame into moneymaking opportunities? Give at least one example from the article.
4. Cheerleading does not qualify as a sport in the eyes of the N.C.A.A., but cheerleaders still enjoy some of the same benefits as other college athletes. Do you think that cheerleading should be governed by the same rules as other N.C.A.A. sports? Why or why not? What evidence in the article supports your stance?
5. What are some of the reasons brands have turned to college cheerleaders to market their products?
6. At the end of the article, the author quotes Ms. Andries:
She said she had realized in college that she got “the best of both worlds” at Oklahoma.
“I was like, ‘Wow I get to cheer and I get to have this sort of side job that I get to focus on,’” she said, “‘and I get to make some money that I can save up for myself to use after college.’”
Do you think cheerleaders should be able to make money from endorsement deals while they are in school? Should other college athletes? Why or why not? Use evidence from the article to support your position.
Option 1: Return to the Barometer.
Return to the activity you did in the warm-up. Where do you fall on the barometer now that you have more information?
Did your position change after reading the article? Write about or discuss with your classmates where you stand now and why. Be sure to cite evidence from the article to back up your opinion.
Option 2: Weigh-In: Should All College Athletes Be Paid?
Do you think football players, gymnasts, runners and other N.C.A.A. athletes should be able to make money the way cheerleaders can?
Take a look at some of the arguments for and against allowing college competitors to profit from their renown in these Times articles:
Then weigh in on our Student Opinion question from 2019: Should College Athletes Be Paid? Or engage in a class-wide debate or write your own Op-Ed essay to stake your claim.
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