For several weeks, word has circulated that NFL Media, the league-owned online and broadcast conglomerate, would reduce staff. On Wednesday, one of the individuals who lost his job supplied a number.
“As one of 132 NFL Media layoffs, I lost a job I loved after 14 years,” Andy Fenelon tweeted. “Not many people can say they lasted that long in the Not For Long league, but I leave with very few regrets.”
A spokesperson for NFL Media did not provide an on-the-record response to an inquiry from PFT, and there has been no public pushback regarding the accuracy of Fenelon’s number. A prior report from FrontOfficeSports.com pegged the looming layoffs at 10 percent of the workforce. Multiple sources with knowledge of the dynamics and size of the operation said that, if the league laid off 132 people, that’s most likely more than 10 percent of the total staff.
At least one of the NFL Media employees who remain has made clear his disagreement with the development. Jim Trotter, for example, tweeted last week that it’s “[r]eally sad that so many loyal employees who took mandatory & voluntary paycuts during the pandemic to help the company, & who came up with creative ways to produce content & limit $$ losses, would be fired after NFL signed $100B TV deals.”
The apparent slashing of the workforce comes at a time when the league is looking for a more established media company to buy a minority stake in the company. Trimming any and all actual or perceived fat (along with some muscle and bone) could be part of an effort to make the business more attractive to an investor.
And, ultimately, a business is what it is. Football isn’t family. They say “football is family” because it’s good for business to say, “Football is family.” Football, for the NFL, is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that faces constant pressure to grow and grow and grow. Increase revenue, decrease costs, pump up profits. As far beyond 12.5 PSI as possible.
That’s the game, at its core. Because that’s how business works, everywhere. The specific human beings are valued only for as long as the value they bring outweighs their cost to the company. The instant that flips, they’re gone.
That applies to the rosters of the 32 teams, to the organizational charts of the 32 franchises, and the league office that oversees them all.
It also applies to the human beings who make up the various fan bases, as folks in St. Louis learned five years ago, and as the litigation arising from the departure of the Rams recently has made all too clear.
UPDATE 7/16/21: The NFL provided a statement to PFT on Thursday night regarding the layoffs. The league calls the numbers circulating on social media “wildly inaccurate,” and describes the situation as “not markedly different” from layoffs in prior offseasons.