Confused, saddened, horrified. Those were my immediate emotions when I learned in real time that dozens of sites based in California and several dozen staff members found themselves, sometimes first via social media, unemployed.
Detroit Bad Boys, proudly in the heart of the Midwest and full of regular middle-class folks who rely on blue collar jobs at universities, hospitals and the automotive industry, supports and grieves for those who have suddenly become collateral damage and can no longer do what they love.
We do this because we love the team and we love our community. Some get paid a pittance while most contributors don't get paid at all. But we come back and do what we love.
We understand that difficult decisions needed to be made, but what we don’t understand is the lack of planning and communication and, frankly, the inability to treat those impacted with dignity and respect.
Below is a statement that SB Nation bloggers put together to make our position knowntak.
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.