A New York Times Guild protest of the shuttering of the NYT Sports desk. A New York Times Guild protest of the shuttering of the NYT Sports desk. (@NYTimesGuild on Twitter.)

The history of The New York Times sports department dates back over a century, including coverage of the first modern Olympics in 1896, the 1927 establishment of the “Sports of the Times” column, four Pulitzer Prizes (won by columnists Red Smith, Arthur Daley and Dave Anderson and feature writer John Branch) and more. But that department officially came to an end Monday with the publication of the last sports section from the paper’s own NYT Sports desk; as announced in July, they plan to replace it with non-union coverage from The Athletic, which the paper bought for $550 million in 2022. Here’s the final print section, via Times reporter Juliet Macur:

That top story, from Macur on Khalida Popal, the former captain of the Afghanistan women’s national soccer team, can be found digitally here. And in addition to that actual printed section distributed to subscribers, the Times Guild union also produced its own farewell section. That included the classic -30- journalism signoff, columns from former Times sports columnists George Vecsey and Harvey Araton, and a piece on the decision from reporter Jenny Vrentas. (Click to expand.)

As noted in Vrentas’ piece there, the union filed for arbitration last week after their grievance was rejected. So the discussion of if Times sports coverage should be unionized or not is not necessarily over. But the standalone Times sports section with its own staffers is done, at least for now. And, as noted here before, that has many exceptionally unhappy with Times leadership. As Ben Strauss of The Washington Post wrote Monday, too, this also led to an in-person protest in the Times offices Monday:

Dozens of New York Times sports staffers and Guild members marched through the Times offices Monday afternoon to protest the end of the Times’s stand-alone sports desk. They stopped near the main atrium and read the names of some 150 sports staffers past and present, starting with Red Smith, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and sportswriting pioneer at the Times.

Staffers called the march a vigil for a desk that was a staple of the newspaper’s reporting for decades. Starting tomorrow, the Times will rely on the Athletic for the majority of its sports coverage, both in print and online.

…In continued protest of management’s decision, staffers protested at the office and rallied outside the Times headquarters, accompanied by a brass band.

“The people who run The Times let our department twist in the wind, either purposely obscuring their plans for the future of sports coverage at Times or spending $550 million on another sports publication without an editorial plan,” sports investigative reporter Jenny Vrentas said at the rally. “The way they’ve chosen to handle this has been unfair to workers at both The Times and The Athletic.”

Here are some Guild tweets on that:

While the Times promised in that July announcement that there would be no job losses, and that they would transfer sports staffers to other departments, some of those staffers have chosen other options. Those include reporters Tyler Kepner and Matthew Futterman, who joined The Athletic last month. It remains to be seen just where all the sports staffers will wind up. But the end of the NYT Sports section prompted many notable social media tributes. Here are a few of those.

The Times sports desk mattered, and it continued to produce important reporting and commentary on a wide variety of fronts over these last two months of limbo. And it kept that up in this final print edition. We’ll see what’s ahead for the talented people who worked there.

[Top and signoff image from NY Times Guild on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.