New York Times Building Credit: Anthony Quintano, CC BY 2.0

When the New York Times shuttered its storied sports desk in favor of using The Athletic as its de facto sports section, the cynical read was that they were doing so, in part, as a union-busting tactic.

That notion was in the air earlier this week when New York Times CEO and president Meredith Kopit Levien was asked if the company would recognize The Athletic’s union if editors and writers choose to form one.

Axios’ Sara Fischer reported last month that some staffers at The Athletic The Athletic were “in active discussions about forming a union.” The Athletic staffers had previously considered forming a union in the days before the company was sold to the Times, but the financial gains from that sale reportedly quelled talks.

If some of The Athletic’s staffers did indeed form a union, they would be one of many that the Times has to negotiate with. The company reached an agreement with its newsroom union last May, agreed to a new deal with unionized Wirecutter workers last week, and is currently negotiating with its tech workers union.

That brings us to Monday when Levien spoke with Axios at the 2024 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. When asked if The Grey Lady would recognize The Athletic’s union if forms, she said that she recognized their right to do so but wouldn’t commit to anything specific.

“The Times works with lots of unions. … We certainly recognize all of our colleagues’ rights. If The Athletic team chooses to form a union to represent themselves they have a right to do that, but I don’t have anything to report there.”

Interestingly, the article includes an editor’s note that implies a previous interpretation of the comments that the New York Times would recognize the union was incorrect.

“This story has been corrected to say that Levien said she recognizes employee rights to form unions, not that the New York Times would necessarily recognize one formed by employees of The Athletic,” reads the note.

The Times has been very focused on getting The Athletic to profitability. Their most recent quarterly numbers saw ongoing subscriber and revenue growth, though the sports-centric site lost $8.7 million. The company has remained adamant that they expect it to be profitable by 2025 and Levien echoed those sentiments on Monday.

“We’re super happy with everything about The Athletic is doing. It’s doing at least as well as we expected it to do economically,” Levien said. “To be clear, we’re not stopping at breakeven.”


About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to