The Recession Hits the NFL: 10% of Staff Axed

The recession has hit the NFL.

The league said Tuesday it is cutting more than 10 percent of its headquarters staff in response to the downturn in the nation's economy.

Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the cuts in a memo to league employees. The NFL is eliminating about 150 of its staff of 1,100 in New York, NFL Films in New Jersey and television and Internet production facilities in Los Angeles.

"These are difficult and painful steps," Goodell wrote in the memo. "But they are necessary in the current economic environment. I would like to be able to report that we are immune to the troubles around us, but we are not. Properly managed, I am confident the NFL will emerge stronger, more efficient and poised to pursue long-term growth opportunities."

The NFL has been symbolic of the wealth surrounding professional sports — its players will be paid $4.5 billion this year — but it now joins the NBA, NASCAR and the company that runs Major League Baseball's Internet division in announcing layoffs.

The cuts will take place over the next 60 days, running past the Super Bowl, which will be played Feb. 1 in Tampa. Employees who volunteer to leave will be offered what was termed "a voluntary separation program."

The layoffs are separate from the cuts in front-office and other personnel being made by the 32 individual teams.

Goodell said last month in an interview with The Associated Press that the league and its teams could feel the economic slump in cutbacks in sponsorship and marketing.

Ticket sales for this season have been strong and stadiums have been largely sold out. But NFL officials, including Goodell, believe that is because season tickets for this year's games were sold in the spring and summer. The commissioner feared the league and its teams would take a bigger hit when season tickets go on sale next spring for the 2009 season.

"There's no secret on sponsorship, advertising, licensing — those numbers are going to be impacted by the current climate. We're aware of that," Goodell said in the interview.

"We're still, unfortunately, in the beginning stages of this. And most of our tickets are sold in the spring. And so '09 is going to be more of a barometer of how impactful the economic environment's going to be on the NFL."

In September, the NBA became the first major American sports league to announce layoffs due to the economic downturn when it said it was eliminating about 80 jobs in the United States. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the company that runs the sport's highly successful Internet division, said Monday that it has laid off about 4.5 percent of its workers. And nearly 70 people have been let go from NASCAR racing teams recently.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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