SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NBA job losses near 400 since end of season

    The NBA has lost about 400 jobs as part of the collateral damage inflicted on the league and its teams during the four-month-old lockout.

    The job losses are estimated to number roughly 200 at the NBA’s headquarters and its international offices and about 200 across its 30 teams since last season and over the course of the lockout, said a source familiar with the league’s business dealings.

    The job losses are the result of combined layoffs and attrition, though a specific count is not available given that teams are prohibited from speaking about business matters related to the lockout or face steep fines.

    League officials would not comment on the figures.

    The job cuts come while the NBA and its players stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars from the cancellation of the first two weeks of the NBA season, which was set to begin Nov. 1.

    Last July, 114 NBA league office employees were laid off from various offices, with other jobs at the league lost to attrition.

    NBA officials have said that the 114 lost jobs were across all league departments and were not directly related to the lockout. The head count reduction, which at the time represented 11 percent of the league office staff, was part of a $50 million cost savings effort by the league. The NBA announced the expense cuts shortly after the lockout began July 1. Personnel is one area the league has clearly looked at to cut operating expenses.

    The Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Bobcats and Detroit Pistons have reportedly cut staff members during the lockout.

    While it’s unclear how many of the lost jobs will be replaced or filled after the lockout ends, some connected to the league believe a number of the jobs may be gone for good.

    “What you are going to see is that teams are going to use this time to look at lost positions and decide whether they will reallocate those resources,” said Bill Sutton, principal of Bill Sutton & Associates, a sports consultant that counts NBA teams as clients. “Teams may have had a hiring freeze and now the lockout lets you really know if you need that person.”
    In addition to the staff cuts, a hiring freeze for most non-revenue-producing jobs has been in place for some teams, Sutton said.

    More job cuts are expected if the lockout caused the league to cancel more games. As of Oct. 20, the league and the players were continuing to negotiate with federal mediator George Cohen, who joined the talks last week.

    “If [the NBA] is not playing by January you will see more layoffs,” Sutton said. “With so much lost revenue teams are going to have to cut.”

    During the NFL’s recent lockout, job losses were minimal. Teams reduced costs through furloughs and pay cuts.

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  • USA Swimming cheers on fans with new program

    In the never-ending quest to find a social media strategy that engages fans, USA Swimming believes it has found one that will appeal to swimmers.

    The organization’s newly created Deck Pass, a free digital platform and phone application, allows swimmers to track their best times, set goals and earn patches via Facebook for accomplishments in the pool.

    For example, a swimmer who qualifies for a big meet gets a patch; a swimmer who qualifies for a club’s sprint team gets a patch; a person who drops his time by 2 percent gets a patch. The patches can be awarded automatically when a swimmer hits a goal set for himself or by coaches monitoring a swimmer.

    “By having a connection to Facebook and people earning different patches, it allows these kids to brag or have USA Swimming brag for them,” said Jim Fox, USA Swimming marketing manager. “From talking to coaches and swimmers, it’s already building and has been really exciting for folks.”

    Deck Pass replaces another online offering that USA Swimming provided that allowed swimmers to log and track their times. But that service was more user intensive, Fox said. Its 70,000 users were automatically enrolled in Deck Pass last month during a soft launch of the digital program. Only a small percentage are using it so far.

    The idea for Deck Pass was developed in part by USA Swimming media relations manager Karen Linhart. She bought a season ski pass from Vail Resorts last year and the pass had a chip in it that automatically tracked how many feet she descended and allowed her to earn pins for runs she skied at various Vail Resorts. It led her to wonder whether USA Swimming could design something similar for swimmers.

    The organization developed the idea for Deck Pass internally and then worked with Statera, a technology company, to develop the program and Appcelerator, a mobile application company, to develop the mobile application.

    USA Swimming hopes eventually to integrate its sponsors into Deck Pass. Executives believe it can be another vehicle to connect corporate partners with the organization’s 280,000 members.

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