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NFL to pay Super Bowl volunteers thanks to All-Star lawsuit vs. MLB

New York Daily News—Gary Myers

The NFL has been forced to adjust how it handles its Super Bowl volunteer program as a result of a class-action lawsuit brought against Major League Baseball for not paying volunteers at the All-Star FanFest at the Javits Center in July.

In the past, the Super Bowl host committee supplied all the volunteers on a non-paid basis for Super Bowl week, which would include the greeters at the airports and train stations and on the streets as well as the volunteers who worked specific NFL events.

As a result of the lawsuit against MLB, which has not been settled, the NFL has elected to hire its own 1,500 workers to help out at events and pay them. The NY-NJ Super Bowl Host Committee is hiring 11,000-12,000 volunteers for community projects, but those people will not be paid and will have to sign a waiver “that among other things says they won’t join a class-action suit asking to be paid,” said Al Kelly, the CEO of the NY-NJ Super Bowl Host Committee told the Daily News.

“Community involvement has been critical at all the Super Bowls,” Kelly said. “The host committee is 30 full-time people and traditionally relying on local volunteers as an important source of frontline hospitality, friendliness, enthusiasm and spirit. It has been critical. It has always been unpaid groups of local citizens that have really wanted to do this kind of thing. This year we ran into an unforeseen challenge when we saw plaintiff’s attorney file a class-action suit against major league baseball for ironically non-payment of volunteers. We are doing everything we can to make sure these volunteers in fact know that they won’t be paid.”

About 10 days ago, the host committee began the final process of hiring volunteers. “We haven’t had a single case of anybody say to us they are reluctant to sign that waiver,” Kelly said. “We believe volunteerism is the heart of what makes America great.”

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As the hiring process starts, Kelly said about 2,000 volunteers have already signed the waiver. Ultimately, 15,000 volunteers will be hired and thus far there is no indication the waiver will be an issue or prevent the committee from reaching its goal. People have been asking to volunteer for Super Bowl and the committee began collecting names last year. The waiver stipulates if there is a dispute, it has to go through arbitration and not be taken to court or become part of a class-action lawsuit.

The NFL was advised by its attorneys, as a result of the MLB lawsuit, to pay those who previously did the job for free.

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