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The Bird Writes/SB Nation NBA Blogger statement on California layoffs

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A statement of support to our friends and colleagues in California and a call to action.

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Three Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

NOTE: The following is from The Bird Writes Associate Editor Preston Ellis. The thoughts and opinions outlined here are those of my own and those that agreed to post the shared statement below.

You’ve probably heard the news by now.

SB Nation and Vox Media recently cut ties with 200 positions operated by some of our West Coast-based colleagues following the passing of a California law designed to protect freelancers.

What you may have not heard is that most (if not all) of those who helped to build these individual websites from the ground up were dismissed without word or proper notice ahead of the general public.

Like Josh Hart, many learned their fate on Twitter. But unlike Hart, many don’t know where to turn from here. There’s no next opportunity. There’s nothing. And remember, the effect reaches beyond freelancers and into the communities of fans these sites helped to aggregate.

I understand the reasoning for the law. I’m proud to say that The Bird Writes has covered the New Orleans Pelicans better and more consistently than any other available news outlet over the years — and that probably deserves considerable compensation.

The fault does not lie with the newfound litigation but its execution by our parent company. For the diligent and continuous work of these tireless workers, a bit of candor or forthrightness is the least that should be expected.

Many (including myself) are simply fans who are proud to have a platform with which to express themselves. I can’t thank Oleh Kosel or Mike Cali of Orlando Pinstriped Post enough for the opportunities granted here and in Orlando. I’ve spoken to coaches, front office executives, dabbed Jonathan Isaac and even shared a hug with Mike Conley after sharing what it means to be a father.

But many would seek the opportunity for more and should be afforded that chance. The vast majority of our Californian counterparts were not offered full-time or part-time jobs. They will not derive any specific benefit or conversation following the proposed change. As new positions inevitably become available within Vox Media, our colleagues have been afforded no special privilege, advantage, even useful information — this, after years of faithful service.

The Bird Writes has yet to be directly affected by these changes, but this law has the potential to reach all 50 states. For now, we stand with our colleagues at Golden State of Mind. Sactown Royalty, Clips Nation and even our bitter rivals at the Lake Show (many of whom I count as friends).

We’re calling on SB Nation and Vox Media to begin the dialogue now, to keep us informed and to remain transparent throughout this process.

The statement below is approved and in the process of being released by many SB Nation Team Site Managers as a result of the fallout from this past week.

To learn more, you can read up on this announcement from SB Nation’s Director of Team Brands John Ness, as well as an outside perspective on the unfolding events. This law may have triggered this reaction from Vox Media, but the way in which their actions were administered was appalling.

This widespread layoff was enacted against some of the most successful blogs in our industry. It can - and perhaps, will - happen here next.

*****

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.