As some of you may have heard, many of our friends who write for SB Nation blogs in California have been notified that they will no longer have jobs with the company come March. While this comes on the heels of a new law passed by the state of California intended to limit the ability of large corporations to take advantage of contract workers, SB Nation publicly acknowledged that they have been considering this for two years. This matters for a couple of reasons.
First, it means they are likely considering doing the same thing for Posting and Toasting. While we haven’t been informed that this will happen, neither were the California bloggers. Despite repeatedly asking SB Nation what they planned to do in light of the new law, our colleagues did not receive a response. The first information they received was in the form of the poorly written—and deeply confusing—publicly shared article linked above. You know what I always say, “if I’m going to be fired, I want it to be as close to the holiday season as possible and in as cold, crass, and confusing a manner as possible”. Gee, thanks, overlords.
This leads me to the second reason why exploring this move matters. The company obviously had a plan. One that they carefully considered—I can’t say this enough—for two years. Yet, apparently, in the course of all of that careful planning, they never thought about their current employees; you know, the ones who have written the hundreds and thousands of articles—for very little pay, and even less gratitude—that has made SB Nation pretty much all of their money (via ad revenue). This just confirms what WE’VE KNOWN ALL ALONG: every time you click the KP mirror image ad, the devil gets another dollar.
I guess it should have been obvious that SB Nation doesn’t put relationships with its employees at a premium. After all, they’ve built much of their wealth on what’s been widely recognized as an exploitative business model. If you don’t know, many of the writers at P&T are not paid. And those who are, are woefully underpaid. SB Nation is always quick to point out that they GENEROUSLY provide this wonderful public platform for our work (with which I now lampoon them), buuuuuut as Jesus said, “Man cannot live on platform alone.”
But for us, the writers, it can be easy to miss or overlook the fact that they don’t particularly value their current stable of contributors. We primarily interact with other writers at our blog, and we get caught up in the gritty details of the season and life—the highs and lows of following the team closely, the stress of having to produce and edit enough content, the regular old family obligations, and full-time day jobs all serve to keep one distracted. But this announcement brought the reality boiling to the surface. SB Nation doesn’t consider their workers—they didn’t even care enough to personally tell a number of our colleagues that they were fired.
In light of all of this, a number of SB Nation bloggers have been motivated to act. Some, are considering starting up sites that they control and benefit from, some have decided to just stop writing for SB Nation, and some are sharing the statement located at the bottom of this piece.
As a blog, we’ve decided that (for now) we will share the statement below, and not run any coverage for tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks (no pre-game, no game thread, no post-game, no game recap, and no live tweeting from the P&T twitter). Individually, some of us may do more.
What do we ask of you? First, if you’ve read someone’s work who has been let go, say a few kind words to them. Let them know what you appreciated about their writing, you’d be surprised how much that can mean in a dark time. Second, discuss! One of the cool things about P&T historically is that it’s been one of the rare online forums where people have productive discussions about a wide-range of topics. And, hey, maybe one of you has a novel solution, or an idea about how we can effect change at SB Nation—I, for one, feel a little bit unsure about what the next steps should be. Finally, be kind to each other.
And as always, GO THE KNICKS.
Yours in solidarity,
SB NATION NBA BLOGGERS’ STATEMENT REGARDING RECENTLY ANNOUNCED CHANGES FOR CALIFORNIA INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS
We are the bloggers. SB Nation calls us “Community Insiders.” Deadspin has referred to us as an “Army of Exploited Workers.” We call ourselves fans.
For almost 15 years, team site bloggers have been the passionate heartbeat of SB Nation. That heart skipped a beat when most of us learned along with the general public that Vox Media/SB Nation planned to terminate their independent contractor agreements with bloggers who live in California or work for California-based team sites.
These are our friends, colleagues, and peers. We are heartbroken that many of them will not be able to continue doing something they love because of this decision. While we acknowledge SB Nation was forced to make changes due to the recent passage of AB5 in California, which defines and limits the nature of independent contractor arrangements, we are deeply disappointed in how they chose to move forward and how they chose to announce these decisions.
These hard-working bloggers were not informed of their imminent termination prior to SB Nation’s public announcement on Monday, December 16. This, despite numerous efforts by SB Nation bloggers to discuss a path forward months ago when AB5 was passed. That is shameful--we should have been told of the planned changes months ago, ahead of the general public, and given a voice in how to best help our communities with these transitions.
We have built SB Nation through a late night recap after a game that goes into 2OT on the West Coast, by interacting with our fans through social media, comments, and watch parties, and by providing amazing journalism well above our pay grade. We are also your friends at work in the cubicle next to you reporting on breaking news on our lunch break, your classmate cramming for the test while also moderating a comment section, and the fan sitting next to you in the nosebleeds while providing in game updates.
We also build and curate communities which serve as vital online “homes” for so many sports fans. Our network not only stands to lose an immense amount of talented writers, creators, and managers, but vast reservoirs of institutional knowledge and the trust of our community members that can’t be replaced with just any employee. All of that work for limited compensation has generated huge value for SB Nation and its parent, Vox Media.
And make no mistake, there are alternatives. SB Nation could have offered full or part time employment to their current California site managers, while maintaining the independent contractor model for contributors on a lesser scale. The law permits this, but SB Nation decided, without consultation, to instead terminate all independent contractor contracts and with that, so many fantastic team sites with their own voice and loyal followings.
California bloggers and team brands deserve a lot more than a pat on the head and the opportunity to battle it out for a handful of jobs. The rest of us deserve the assurance that we won’t be the next ones to learn from a tweet that our contracts have been terminated.
We call on SB Nation to open an honest dialogue with us and our communities about these changes, and to give us a greater voice in any future decisions affecting the heart of our work and communities. We deserve at least that, and frankly we deserve a lot more.