After countless rounds of expansion, The Athletic is now contracting in a big way. The site announced layoffs of 46 people, almost eight percent of its staff, Friday in an internal memo. Sara Fischer has more details on the cuts at Axios:
- A spokesperson confirmed the cuts to Axios: “With sports on pause due to the ongoing pandemic, today we made the difficult decision to reduce the size of our staff in select coverage areas, affecting approximately eight percent of employees.”
- “While we are hopeful that sports will soon resume, this measure was necessary to ensure that the company can weather the uncertainty that lies ahead. Overall, our subscriber base remains steady and we are proud of our newsroom’s continuing coverage of the return of sports.”
In a memo to the company, co-founder and CEO Alex Mather said that in addition to the layoffs, The Athletic will be implementing pay cuts across the staff, with most people being asked to take a 10% pay reduction for the rest of the year.
…Mather notes that the layoffs and pay cuts are a last resort and that the company did try to control burn “through reduced travel, freelance cutbacks, extreme cutbacks on marketing spend, and deep pay cuts for our entire HQ leadership team.”
Here are some of the people who have announced that they’ve been let go, starting with Atlanta Falcons writer Jason Butt:
I was informed that this will be my final day at The Athletic due to economic constraints resulting from the covid-19 pandemic. I’ve had an absolute blast covering the Atlanta Falcons. I want to thank every person who subscribed to read my work over the past two years.
— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) June 5, 2020
Arizona Cardinals writer Scott Bordow:
I was informed this morning that I was one of 46 people to be laid off by The Athletic. It has been a great place to work for two years and I want to thank everyone for the experience. I don't know what's next. Right now, just trying to process this loss.
— scott bordow (@sbordow) June 5, 2020
Tennessee Titans writer John Glennon:
Some unfortunate news to share: I was one of 46 laid off by @TheAthletic today, due to COVID-19 impact on sports. Dream job covering Titans and Preds last couple years. Couldn't have asked for a better experience, so I'm thankful for that. Looking forward to the next step.
— John Glennon (@glennonsports) June 5, 2020
Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers writer Brett Dawson:
This morning The Athletic announced layoffs of 46 staffers. I’m one of them. For two years, I got to be a part of the best sports writing team in America. I got to cover the Lakers. I’m deeply sorry that it’s ending, but it has been one of the great experiences of my life.
— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) June 5, 2020
Lakers’ writer/video breakdown analyst Pete Zayas:
I got laid off by The Athletic today. Looking forward to getting the YouTube channel back up and running, I really miss making videos anyway and things should work out. Here's my Patreon if you wanna support the work I've done and will be doing. Go Lakers. https://t.co/Mht81RDCy0
— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) June 5, 2020
Enterprise writer Tom Reed:
Thanks to @TheAthletic for three great years. I was among today’s round of layoffs. I wish my former colleagues nothing but the best. And a special thanks to @amather @TheAuthletic and @ByJasonLloyd for the opportunity.
— Tom Reed (@treed1919) June 5, 2020
Boxing writer Rafe Bartholomew:
Got my final day offboarding invite from The Athletic just now. Checked my stats this morning: Wrote 206,814 words in just under a year. Glad I tried writing full-time. So it goes.
— Rafe Bartholomew (@Rafeboogs) June 5, 2020
Miami Heat and Miami Marlins writer Andre Fernandez:
“And so my watch has ended.” Unfortunately, I am one of the 46 let go today at The Athletic. It was an amazing opportunity to learn from and work w/many of the most amazing people in the business. I wish you all the best in these difficult times. Hope we cross paths again soon.
— Andre Fernandez (@FernandezAndreC) June 5, 2020
Auburn writer Justin Ferguson:
The Athletic laid off 46 people today. I was one of them.
Covering Auburn football for a place like The Athletic was truly a dream job. I was fortunate to ever be in this position. I have countless people to thank, and I will do so throughout the rest of the day.
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) June 5, 2020
Texas beat writer Kaelen Jones:
I've had an extremely fortuitous career path. Unfortunately, my time with The Athletic is up. Couldn't be more appreciative of the opportunity covering one of the most iconic college football programs.
I owe thanks to a lot of folks. Much love to y'all. We'll see what's next.
— Kaelen Jones (@kaelenjones) June 5, 2020
Boise State writer Dave Southorn:
Hey everyone. I was one of the 46 employees laid off by The Athletic today. It's surreal, but I've been lucky never facing this before. It was a wonderful experience, and have no regrets.
My DMs are open, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than anything, thank you BSU fans.
— Dave Southorn (@davesouthorn) June 5, 2020
Xavier writer Shannon Russell:
When I covered Xavier's final basketball game in March, I didn't know it would be my last. I'm among the 46 people laid off at The Athletic. I've covered XU since 2008-09, including the last 2 years at The Athletic, & will miss you all! Thanks for reading. It has been an honor.
— Shannon Russell (@slrussell) June 5, 2020
Louisville writer Danielle Lerner and Indiana/Purdue/Butler college basketball writer Dustin Dopirak:
Today was my last day at The Athletic as well. I echo everything Dustin says below. These last eight months were incredible and I wouldn't trade my time on this team for anything.
If you know anyone who needs a sportswriter, I'm available for hire and my DMs are open. https://t.co/h63lOuJ1RO
— Danielle Lerner (@danielle_lerner) June 5, 2020
Arkansas writer Kelli Stacy:
I was one of the 46 employees laid off by The Athletic today. I've loved working here the past year — it was my dream job — and I'm sad to be leaving. Thank you so much to everyone who read and supported and to the amazing Arkansas fans who welcomed me in a year ago.
— Kelli Stacy (@Kelli_Stacy_) June 5, 2020
Podcast producer Rob Lopez:
I was one of the 46 laid off today at The Athletic. I feel for everyone losing a job at this time. It sucks but we all will bounce back, as always. stay strong!
If anyone is in the market for a sports writer, video editor, podcaster, social media manager, hit my line. DM's open
— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) June 5, 2020
San Antonio Spurs writer Matthew Tynan:
Hate to add to all the fun on here, but today is my last day with The Athletic. It was a quick trip through a very strange season, but I had a chance to work with some wonderful people and for a company that did its best to look out for us in so many ways.
— Matthew Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) June 5, 2020
Phoenix Suns writer Gina Mizell:
I’m one of today’s layoffs at The Athletic. I’m really sad, because this is the best job I’ve ever had. I have endless respect and love for my colleagues and will continue to support their terrific work. Thanks to all who read. You helped make a Phoenix kid’s dream come true.
— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) June 5, 2020
Charlotte Hornets writer Rod Boone:
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for reading my Hornets coverage over the last two seasons. I am among the 46 staffers The Athletic laid off today. Thankful to be able to work at such a great place and collaborate with so many fantastic writers. The talent is second to none.
— Rod Boone (@rodboone) June 5, 2020
Philadelphia 76ers/NBA writer Mike O’Connor:
Was informed that I am among The Athletic’s layoffs today. Naturally I’m sad that my run is ending but I couldn’t be more proud of the ride. Getting to cover the Sixers / the NBA for almost 3 years here was a dream come true. I’ll miss the company and my colleagues tremendously.
— Mike O'Connor (@MOConnor_NBA) June 5, 2020
Florida Panthers writer George Richards:
Well, it was a pretty good run. Unfortunately, I was one of the 46 laid off today. Just wanted to thank @TheAthleticMIA for bringing me home back in 2018. I throughly enjoyed my time with The Athletic; it was a great gig. See y’all down the road. pic.twitter.com/EZxbiNMwRr
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) June 5, 2020
Montreal Canadiens/NHL enterprise writer Sean Gordon:
Well, The Athletic laid off a large number of extremely talented people today. And also me. I’m sad to leave, but all in all it’s been a terrific run so I have no complaints. To all of you who read along, it’s been a privilege to have you as an audience. ❤️
— Sean Gordon (@MrSeanGordon) June 5, 2020
Montreal Canadiens/Laval Rocket writer Marc Dumont:
I was let go from The Athletic today.
It's probably the worst possible timing, but I'm desperately looking for work. If you hear of anything, please let me know.
Now, please excuse me, it's whiskey o'clock.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) June 5, 2020
Buffalo Sabres writer Joe Yerdon:
I’m one of the unfortunate many to say this, but today was my final day with @TheAthleticBUF.
I am sad, I am extremely disappointed, but I am not defeated. I am forever thankful to have had the opportunity to write there and tell stories. I love you, Buffalo.
— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) June 5, 2020
Winnipeg Jets writer Ken Wiebe:
Good afternoon folks. I'm sad to report that I am one of the 46 people laid off today by @TheAthletic
Disappointing news, to be sure. I'm proud of the work I was able to do during the past 9 months, thankful for the opportunity to be part of the growth of @TheAthleticWPG
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeAthletic) June 5, 2020
Arizona Coyotes writer Craig Morgan:
I am deely saddened to report that I was one of The Athletic's layoffs today. My heart goes out to all of my colleagues (many of them dear friends) also laid off. It has been a privilege to work at a great company alongside such talented reporters, writers & people.
— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) June 5, 2020
Fantasy writer Chris Meaney:
I’m sad to say I've been let go at The Athletic. I’m completely devastated but I’m also so thankful for the opportunity. This really was a dream job & I had an absolute blast! Such an amazing team, full of great leaders & incredible people.
Thanks for the support along the way!
— Chris Meaney (@chrismeaney) June 5, 2020
As per Ohio State writer Ari Wasserman (who has not been laid off), NCAA editor Mike Hugenin has been laid off:
— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) June 5, 2020
MMA writers Josh Gross, Chuck Mindenhall, and Chad Dundas have also been laid off, as has editor Dann Stupp:
A year ago I received an email out of nowhere to join an amazing team covering MMA for @TheAthletic. It was a lifeline, truly. Today that journey ended for me. I'm grateful for the experience working with A+ colleagues and friends. The world moves on. So do I. Stay safe everyone.
— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) June 5, 2020
I've read tweets like this too many times over the years and I have to say, constructing my own isn't all that much fun. But the axe has come down. I enjoyed my time at The Athletic, and covering MMA for the last dozen. Mostly, I've enjoyed writing for you! Thanks for reading.
— Chuck Mindenhall (@ChuckMindenhall) June 5, 2020
Hey gang, I too got laid off by The Athletic today as part of its reduction in total staff. I'm sad that it ended this way but the year I spent working with @DannStupp, @NandaPrates_, @yay_yee, @ChuckMindenhall, @shaunalshatti & @benfowlkesMMA was the best of my career.
— Chad Dundas (@chaddundas) June 5, 2020
I got laid off today from a job I loved.
I produced work, including this week's MMA Fighter Survey series, that I'm immensely proud of. I also worked with the best damn team of MMA writers ever assembled.
Some of those writers also got laid off. You'd be wise to hire them.
— Dann Stupp (@DannStupp) June 5, 2020
DC/Baltimore editor Kevin Spain was laid off as well:
— Kevin Spain (@kevin_spain) June 5, 2020
This is not the first round of layoffs and shifts we’ve seen from The Athletic. For example, their highly-publicized video team was gutted in February with Armen Keteyian, Alan Goldberg and Victor Frank all leaving, as well as national managing editor Melissa Geisler. They also laid off motorsports analyst David Smith in May, a year after his hiring as part of that new vertical. And they’ve made dramatic pivots with soccer (in April 2019, they hired five full-time writers, but axed many of the freelancers who were covering specific MLS teams) and women’s basketball (they made a big deal of launching a WNBA vertical with a beat writer for every team in May 2019, but those writers were freelancers, and they were axed just before this year’s WNBA draft along with many of the company’s other freelancers).
But this latest round of layoffs is particularly notable for scale (46 people at once is massive, and by far the largest round of layoffs the site has done) and for cross-sports scope. And these layoffs come after the company raised an additional $50 million in a Series D funding round that ended in January, bringing their total money raised since their 2016 launch to $139.5 million and their valuation to around $500 million. And yes, The Athletic is only one of many companies parting ways with employees amidst the economic downturn around the COVID-19 pandemic (Entercom, Maven/Sports Illustrated, and Vox/SB Nation are a few of the ones with notable cuts), but it’s interesting to see them making big cuts considering that they’re not heavily hit by the advertising market downturn (as their site is subscription-based and doesn’t have advertising).
The Athletic has certainly run into challenges gaining new subscribers and keeping existing ones with no live sports. But their writers have done well to produce a lot of important content on sports leagues’ plans to return (in particular, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich have led the way on MLB’s various return plans and the clashes between players and owners there), as well as other creative and historical projects, and there are still plenty of reasons to read the site or to sign up for it. Also, many of their subscriptions are annual, so while they’ve likely taken some notable hits on the month-to-month subscriber front, they would seem to have some cushion that others don’t (especially after that latest round of fundraising, and especially with no sports-related travel for months). So it’s definitely interesting to see them making cuts of this scale. And this further adds to what’s already a dark time in the sports media landscape.