NFL employees have had their salaries reduced by 12 percent since April, and seven teams have instituted pay cuts or furloughs of workers since the owners’ lockout of players began March 12, according to the Associated Press during interviews around the league.
Miami, Buffalo, the New York Jets, Kansas City, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Arizona are the teams known to have cut payroll.
The number of affected employees who work for either the clubs or the league is likely more than 100, including commissioner Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead labor negotiator. Their salaries have been reduced to $1 each while the league’s labor impasse is unresolved.
Two teams, the Falcons and 49ers, would not comment when asked if they made any cuts, citing privacy issues. Information about several other clubs came from people with knowledge of the cuts or furloughs who spoke on condition of anonymity because the moves had not been announced by the team.
Several team owners, particularly John Mara of the Giants, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, and Jim Irsay of the Colts, have been adamant about avoiding such reductions.
“I try to stay focused in the now. I just don’t anticipate that sort of thing,” Irsay said. “My feeling is I’m interested in good morale around here. I look at someone who’s making $40,000, $50,000 a year, who has rent to pay, and I don’t see it for me as an owner to be asking them for anything.”
The NFL lockout of players by team owners followed the move by the players’ union to dissolve themselves and pursue court action against the league in March.
A lockout effectively closes down the league’s activities and will halt any trade activities and any other dealings between players and clubs, and it puts the 2011 season at risk.
In March, the union (NFLPA) announced they had “decertified” and were no longer taking part in collective bargaining over a new deal between the league and players.
The Buffalo Bills made cuts to all salaried employees in March ranging between 20 and 25 percent.
“We have made prudent preparations for the possibilities of a work stoppage,” Bills CEO Russ Brandon said then. “We have, for some time, been very upfront and transparent with our staff so that they, too, could make prudent preparations. We have built a program that focuses on shared sacrifice. Every employee in the organization will be affected. As you move up the organization chart, the sacrifice increases in absolute and percentage terms, as it should.
“We plan no layoffs as a result of the situation at this time. Our hope is that our advanced planning will allow us to avoid them in the future as well.”
But in May the team also suspended payments into the employees’ pension and 401K plans for the duration of the lockout.
Lions employees have taken two-week furloughs, a person familiar with the team management told the AP.
“Any decisions we make, the impact will start with me,” said team president Tom Lewand, adding the names of coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew. “Unfortunately, it is affecting the entire organization, starting with us.”
The Cardinals had a companywide weeklong furlough during the last week of May. All the coaches have in their contracts pay reductions in the event of a work stoppage.
The Jets have been requiring their dozens of non-contracted employees to take a one-week unpaid furlough every month since the lockout began. Contracted employees in football operations, including general manager Mike Tannenbaum, coach Rex Ryan and assistant coaches took 25 percent pay cuts.
And the Jets implemented other cost-cutting measures, such as scaling back team events – they canceled their “Taste of the NFL” benefit and their annual golf outing.
Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, coach Tony Sparano and his assistant coaches received a pay cut on June 1. In May, the Dolphins cut salaries of support staff 10 to 20 percent. The percentage was greater for higher-paid employees, and all employees were told they will return to full pay when the lockout ends. CEO Mike Dee blamed lagging ticket sales resulting from the lockout.
Owner Stephen Ross said employees will either receive back pay when the lockout ends or get time off to compensate for the reduced pay.
Across the state, the Buccaneers closed their offices during Memorial Day week, saying employees would be reimbursed in full for lost wages from the one-week furlough if the labor situation is resolved and no regular-season games are lost.
All Chiefs employees, including GM Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley, have taken a pay reduction during the lockout. The extent of the reduction depends on the level of job, with top executives taking the biggest hit. The cuts will be phased in over eight months and will average about 10 percent, with nobody reduced more than 20 percent.
If the NFL plays a full season, everybody will be fully reimbursed for lost wages.
The Packers have a plan to hold back salaries for management level and higher employees, but it hasn’t been applied. It would only go into effect if a game or games are missed.
The Saints have avoided any cuts or furloughs in part because their revenue stream from ticket sales is at an all-time high. They recently billed season ticket holders for the second half of their amount due, perhaps to maintain enough cash flow to delay resorting to salary reductions.
The Louisiana Superdome is sold out again for next season, and because of redesigned and upgraded field level seating, capacity has increased from 70,000 to 73,000. Prices for many of those new seats increased, creating more income for the team.
Oakland has come up with its own way of potentially avoiding cuts: The Raiders implemented a plan that allows employees to keep their full pay if they sell a certain number of season tickets.
“Certainly some teams are taking one approach: How do we decrease expenses during a work stoppage?” Raiders CEO Amy Trask said. “We looked at this from the opposite approach. Let’s all work together as an organization, every single department, to increase our ticket revenues.”
The Raiders were last in the NFL last year in attendance, averaging just over 46,400 fans per home game. To avoid a pay cut, employees must sell season tickets worth 10 percent of their salary during the lockout.
The cheapest Raiders season tickets go for $260 per year, with the most expensive non-club seats at $960 annually.
“This is a program that’s constructive and productive,” Trask said. “We’re working as a staff to build something together, so when we come out on the other side of this work stoppage we’re going to be bigger and better and stronger for it because we have sold more season tickets.”
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