Now you can officially make a career out of cheerleading in at least one state. California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law this week declaring cheerleaders of professional sports teams employees of those teams.
Now that cheerleaders are official employees of the professional sports organizations rather than independent contractors, they get benefits like minimum wage, sick leave, and overtime pay. This is a big deal because NFL cheerleading has been called one of the worst jobs in America due to the hard work that goes into it for little pay. Cheerleaders on some squads receive no compensation for practice hours and other mandatory events and only a small amount for each game.
A debate over how to fairly compensate NFL cheerleaders has been going on for the past couple years as multiple squads have filed lawsuits against their teams for unfair pay.
California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored the bill after the Oakland Raiderettes filed a lawsuit.
"We would never tolerate shortchanging of women workers at any other workplace. An NFL game should be no different," Gonzalez said.
Though this law is effective only in California, similar legislation is pending in New York, and Gonzalez has said she hopes the California law will influence the NFL to follow suit and extend employee benefits to its cheerleaders nationwide.
For many cheer supporters, this law is reason to celebrate, but it’s only the beginning. Professional cheerleaders in the state will now be paid minimum wage, but many think they deserve more than that. They are, after all, a big part of drawing fans to games and promoting the teams.
Both Gonzalez and Brown are former cheerleaders, with Gonzalez cheering in high school and at Stanford University and the California governor cheering on his high school squad.
Another cheerleading bill Gonzalez introduced is making its way through the California legislature, too. This one would define competitive cheerleading as a sport in California, which would lead to more guidelines and safety standards.