You can’t get your meat where you get your bread.

That’s what workplace anti-fraternization rules boil down to. Such edicts make sense in the corporate boardroom, where hookups can be linked by good lawyers to promotions or lack thereof and cost companies bundles.

But on the football field?

Believe it or not, NFL teams prevent those who wear the pads on Sunday afternoons from having any nonprofessional engagements with those who wear a lot less. Sadly, cheerleader–player fraternization has cost the league some of its greatest talent this year. The distaff side has suffered all the losses.

Christy, the Redskins representative in Maxim cheerleader spreads the past two seasons, isn’t on the FedEx sidelines this year. Neither is Frankie, a cheer rookie who, to judge by the photo that was briefly on the team’s Web site, had what it takes to make it in the bigs. Both were asked to turn in their pompoms over the summer, reportedly for extracurricular associations with beloved Redskin Chris Cooley. (For anti-stalker reasons, Redskins cheerleaders, like pop divas and popes, don’t use their surnames professionally. Neither Christy nor Frankie could be reached for comment.)

“We loved Christy,” says Elliot Segal, the WWDC-FM morning host who railed on the DC101 airwaves after learning that Christy, who’d only recently been named the favorite Redskins cheerleader by listeners to his show, had been kicked off the squad—and why she’d been kicked off. “The whole thing turned into a soap opera.”

And not a soap opera the Redskins are happy to talk about. Patrick Wixted, director of public relations for the team, declined to discuss the cheerleaders’ banishment and, on behalf of the player, turned down a request for an interview with Cooley, who has not discussed the allegations, let alone disclosed whether he was sanctioned for his role in them.

“That’s not something we would make Chris available for,” says Wixted.

Donald Wells, director of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, was traveling in Asia with members of the squad and was unavailable to comment at press time.

NFL spokesperson Michael Lipman says the league has no directive about cheerleader–player fraternization. “That is controlled by the teams,” Lipman says. “There is no policy here.”

Yet the NFL’s reputation for prohibiting players from tangoing with cheerleaders is such that Vince McMahon, the wrestling impresario and closest thing to P.T. Barnum that America’s produced since the 19th century, made ridiculing anti-fraternization rules a cornerstone of the XFL, the short-lived and decorum-free football confederation he founded in 2000.

“Then, when the quarterback fumbles or the wide receiver drops a pass—and we know who he’s dating—I want our reporters right back in her face on the sidelines, demanding to know whether the two of them did the wild thing last night,” he said.

And the NFL’s anti-fraternization bent hasn’t plagued just the Redskins. Lisa Perry, who now makes football picks for a gambling Web site, was banished from the Indianapolis Colts sidelines this summer. In an interview to go along with her December Playboy pictorial, Perry says her crime was getting caught with players in her personal locker room after the Colts’ preseason game in Japan.

Apparently, sororitization is officially frowned upon, too: Two cheerleaders for the Carolina Panthers were booted off the squad last month after an incident at Banana Joe’s, a bar in Tampa , Fla. The problem allegedly started when they were caught together in a bathroom stall, according to patrons, “moaning.”

Football’s bread–meat prohibition is dubious for some obvious reasons. First, there’s not a whole lot of bread in it for the cheerleaders, anyway. For Redskins cheerleaders, the standard recompense is $75 per game, which isn’t paid until the end of the season. The so-called First Ladies of Football can also make money for appearances at charity and corporate events booked through the team, which generally bring in about $80 to $250 per gig. The cheerleaders supplement their pay by selling calendars, which go for $15 unsigned and can often bring in as much as $40 if autographed by the women.

Also, isn’t the dream of a player–cheerleader hookup among the strongest draws that football and cheerleading offer adolescents of either gender?

But the rules—spelled out in the contract Redskins cheerleaders sign as soon as they’re named to the squad—are clear, and the punishments well-known. One Redskins cheerleader, who asked that her name not be used because of the recent banishments, says that fear of being caught on the wrong side of the rules is such that when the football team’s practice runs over into cheerleading time scheduled at Redskins Park, cheerleaders will stay in their cars until the last player has left the premises.

The rules aren’t new, either. The Redskins cheerleaders have had an anti-fraternization policy in place since the ’60s. Yet despite the ban, some illicit romances between the cheerers and the cheerees have blossomed into holy matrimony. Angelo Coia, a receiver for the Skins in the mid-’60s, and Ken Jenkins, a running back in the mid-’80s, both had brief careers here but ended up married to Redskins cheerleaders. So did Mark Rypien, the 1992 Super Bowl MVP.

Yet very few NFL cheerleading squads—among them the Oakland Raiders’—have kept anti-fraternization codes off the books. The recent binge of violations doesn’t have the “Just Win, Baby!” team thinking of changing its policy, either.

“There’s never been any rule like that here,” says Karen Kovac, director of the Raiderettes. “I think the team figures everybody here’s an adult.”—