Last summer, the state of California passed a law that changed the status of cheerleaders from contractors to employees. AB 202 essentially provides cheerleaders with employee rights, including things like minimum wage, sick leave, and overtime pay. I bring it up now because the law formally went into effect on January 1, 2016.
I spoke with the San Francisco 49ers back in late June when the bill was up for vote. They had issued a statement in April in which they said they would be in full compliance with the bill if it were already law:
"The 49ers have no position on AB 202: the organization would be in compliance with the bill if it were law today. We are proud of e2K, our provider of game entertainment, and the Gold Rush."
There have been various lawsuits regarding cheerleader wages. Members of the Raiderettes settled a lawsuit in 2014. A lawsuit involving Buffalo Bills cheerleaders resulted in legislation that is currently in committee in the New York State Senate.
I realize not everybody is overly interested in cheerleader wages, but it is one more aspect of the business side of football that fascinates me. I took a few minutes to chat with Bonnie-Jill Laflin, who has worked as a cheerleader with the San Francisco 49ers, Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Cowboys.
Given the recent lawsuits, I asked her if the topic of employment status was ever discussed during her time as a cheerleader:
When I was cheering, I went into it knowing that I wouldn't be an official "employee". I planned for it and made the arrangements I needed for it to work for me financially. Sports and dance were my passions so I was living a dream, with the best seats in the house. I cheered for the love of the game, not money!
I wanted to get a handle on what kind of compensation we were talking about. Here's how she broken it down with her three experiences:
Mid 90's Warriors-65.00 a game and 2 tickets for games 49ers-75.00 for games and 50.00 for practice and 2 tickets for the games Cowboys-15.00 for games no money for practice and had to pay for tickets
Finally, I asked if she had any thoughts on the bill in general, and what it might mean for cheerleaders moving forward:
I think this could mean the beginning of the end of professional cheerleaders, which would be sad. In today's world, it's all about the bottom line, and I think teams will start to evaluate if it is cost-effective to keep cheerleaders as part of the in-game experience.