NFL will pay Super Bowl halftime volunteers following questioning by ABC7 News

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News has learned the National Football League has decided to pay 500 people recruited as volunteers for the Super Bowl Halftime show on Sunday.

The NFL revealed the decision after questions from ABC7 News about the legality of using volunteers in the show.

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Employment attorney Jahan Sagafi says California law strictly limits the use of volunteers. "The root question is whether it's a commercial activity, or whether it's a civic engagement," according to Sagafi. Sagafi says, if it is a commercial activity, workers must be paid.

Last year's Super Bowl Halftime show had a record 118 million viewers and was sponsored by PepsiCo, which is sponsoring again this year.

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"It's hard to imagine how that is civic engagement," Sagafi said.

The website where volunteers signed up showed pictures of people moving large props on a football field, apparently from past shows. A notice on the site said people could be required to "push, pull, bend and lift up to 50 pounds of weight."

In Sagafi's opinion, "that's just doing manual labor that people normally get paid for, so that does not sound like volunteer work to me."

ABC7 News repeatedly asked the NFL for details about the volunteer duties. The NFL never provided any and eventually sent an email saying the entire field crew would now be paid.

The league did not say how much people would be paid, or whether they would be paid for both game day and required rehearsals. An email from an NFL spokesman said they would be "paid in accordance with CA labor laws."

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Written and produced by Jennifer Olney
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