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GBB Site Manager/SB Nation NBA Blogger statement on California layoffs

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A statement of support, a call to action.

NBA: Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

NOTE: The following is from GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax. No other GBBer has signed off on this statement. The thoughts and opinions outlined here are those of Joe Mullinax and those that agreed to post the shared statement below.

I’ve been doing this a long time.

I have seen bloggers, writers, and literal sites come and go. I’ve gone from a commenter on this very blog to the Site Manager, now in my fourth season at the helm of Grizzly Bear Blues. I’ve been fortunate to cover major NBA events and playoff games, to appear on ESPN radio and online programming, local Memphis television and across all other sorts of media talking Memphis Grizzlies basketball. I’ve done game coverage, features, podcasts, and have literally written well over a thousand articles for this site in almost 7 years.

None of that would be possible without the vehicle that is SB Nation, or Vox (their parent company). The opportunities presented to me have been tremendous. I am grateful for the platform that I have been able to use.

But I can no longer idly sit and defend something that is not willing to defend those that quite literally built their company.

You see, SB Nation is, in principle, a fan blog network. Hundreds of us, and therefore countless more “bloggers”, team contributors who in some cases are paid and some are not. The merits of this are debatable - financially, when you view the work put in, it can be deemed “exploitation”, as Deadspin and others have labeled it in the past. This reality - and the complete lack of tact when discussing it from SB Nation higher ups at the time - led to several of GBB’s very best contributors stepping away from our site.

Yet I defended SB Nation, because I never felt exploited. Because I do this as a hobby that I am fortunate enough to be paid for. Because I see the value in the platform...and thought the “mothership” saw the value in us...in me.

That has been tested. Which has led me here, to this point.

The following is a statement, approved of and to be released by many SB Nation Team Site Managers, in response to the events of the past week involving our colleagues who work for California-based sites. If you are unfamiliar with these events, check out this original announcement from SB Nation’s Director of Team Brands John Ness, as well as an outside perspective on the unfolding events. The California law AB5 may have forced SB Nation’s hand with regard to its contractor policy, but the timing of this announcement and notification for those involved was ghastly. If this can be done to some of the very best blogs in our network, it can - and perhaps will - be done here.

I’m not going anywhere. Not yet at least. I’ve built this place up a good bit, alongside a lot of hard working and talented people, and I don’t plan on departing any time soon. But that decision may not be up to me long-term. And if that is indeed the case, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself for being an inactive bystander as the beginning of the end of a system I (and many others) helped thrive. I, in a lot of ways, am SB Nation. At least, what it once was. Maybe that’s going extinct. But if the end is to come for us as bloggers/contractors for Vox, it shouldn’t come in the way that it did for my California counterparts.

And that is why I take a stand today.


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.