New California law recognizes pro cheerleaders as employees

Cheerleaders for professional sports teams could soon be getting a raise after a judge ruled NFL teams exploit cheerleaders financially, sometimes paying them well-below minimum wage.

Former Vikings cheerleader Mary Sansavere said when she went into it she knew exactly how little she'd be paid, $50 a game and two tickets.  She said women who try out now want the job for the achievement and experience.  And they too, should know it's a lot of hours for little money.

“Every year you sat down and you went through the contract and word for word we went through it so there was a very clear understanding from everybody who was on the team what you'll get out of it and what you'll be expected to put into it,” Sansavere said.

But she said all the unpaid hours of practice, events, and time at the gym maintaining strict physical mandates can quickly add up to more than anyone truly expects, more than pro teams they cheer for truly realize.

“They may have no idea how many hours these women are putting into what they're doing for their team,” Sansavere said.

The California law requires pro teams to consider cheerleaders as employees, not contractors, and pay them by the hour.  Other states could quickly start following suit.

Sansavere also used to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves cheerleaders. The coach side of her says a lot of teams will balk at the cost, but the cheerleader side of her says it's only fair.

“I'd say yes but I think that some teams won't do that. Not when they see how many hours. And then where's the cut off?  Do you pay them to go get spray tanned?”