On Monday, the NFL basked in the afterglow of the stay-at-home draft, where six weeks of stir craziness contributed to record high ratings for a three-day process that entailed ridiculously low expenses. On Wednesday, reality set in.
With the pandemic threatening to delay, shorter, and/or cancel the 2020 season, the NFL has decided to engage in pre-emptive belt tightening. In a memo sent to all league employees on Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell outlined a series of steps aimed at reducing costs in the coming months.
For starters, the league will reduce the pay of all employees making $100,000 or more per year, with a five-percent cut for managers, a seven-percent drop for directors, a 10-percent decrease for vice presidents, a 12-percent reduction for senior vice presidents, and a 15-percent decline for executive vice presidents. (No employee making more than $100,000 will be reduced below $100,000.)
The league also will furlough “individuals in our workforce who are unable to substantially perform their duties from home and/or whose current workload has been significantly reduced.” It’s unclear who this affects, especially as the league enters a portion of the calendar in which workload is significantly reduced for obvious reasons.
And that’s the aspect of this that likely will rub some league employees the wrong way. The business moved forward in the early days and weeks of the pandemic, without hesitation or limitation. The NFL conducted free agency and the draft without missing a beat. And now that the heavy lifting is done, workers who otherwise would be enjoying the most manageable months of the calendar will be getting the heave ho, at least temporarily.
Given that the months of May, June, and July typically don’t entail significant revenue, it’s likely that the league wants to save in anticipate of major losses during football season, whether from the absence of fans or the cancellation of games. Regardless, Wednesday’s developments are the hangover to what was a five-day draft party, one that began on Thursday night and that culminated with Monday media kudos on a job well done.
And so the positivity and optimism have yielded to a different reality, one in which a league that largely had been immune to the pandemic begins bracing for the challenges to come.