CHARLOTTE, N.C. – With the NBA lockout less than two weeks old, at least two NBA teams have begun cutting staff. The Associated Press reports that the Detroit Pistons have fired 15 staff.
One of the first to resort to layoffs: Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats.
Radio play-by-play announcer Scott Lauer was one of at least seven employees let go by the Bobcats in the past week.
A person familiar with the situation says the Detroit Pistons fired 15 people two weeks ago. The person, who wasn’t authorized to speak about the team’s moves, spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The job losses come as NBA owners have locked out the players after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, shutting down the league for what could be a protracted work stoppage that threatens the start of the 2011-12 season.
Jordan, the Hall of Famer and six-time NBA champion who became the first ex-player to own a team, axed Lauer, director of corporate communications Michael Thompson, manager of community relations Kim Beal and others in sales and business operations.
“They just told me it was an organizational restructuring and my position has been eliminated,” Lauer said Tuesday. “I still feel that once games begin that I’ll be broadcasting games again for them. I’m under that impression, but there is certainly no guarantee in that one way or the other.”
Jordan, scheduled to participate in a celebrity golf tournament this week in Nevada, wasn’t available for comment. A team spokesman confirmed fewer than 10 people were let go, but declined further comment.
“We don’t discuss personnel matters,” B.J. Evans said.
The Pistons, who were sold last month to investor Tom Gores, also declined comment.
It’s not the first time the financially-strapped Bobcats, who employed about 130 people before the cuts, have reduced staff. But it comes after Jordan initially boosted the number of employees after he bought the team outright from Bob Johnson a year ago.
“This is the nature of working in sports,” said Thompson, who also worked for the Charlotte Hornets before they left for New Orleans in 2002. “I’m grateful to the franchises that have given me opportunities over the past 13 years, and I’m looking forward to finding a new organization to serve.”
The Bobcats are one of what the NBA says is 22 teams that are losing money. The NBA announced Jordan paid $275 million for the team Johnson paid a $300 million expansion fee to obtain in 2004. But much of Jordan’s price included the assumption of debt.
Now with both the players and owners not close to an agreement, lower-paid employees in business operations are starting to feel the pinch of the league’s first work stoppage since 1998-99.
“I think that’s where it’s a shame, where the everyday employees of these teams are caught in the middle of it,” said Lauer, who was in his seventh season with the franchise. “Ultimately, I’m just concerned with the well-being of my family and how they’re going to handle this. I don’t want them to suffer in any way.”
The Bobcats basketball operations department, which recently added general manager Rich Cho, wasn’t affected by the cuts. The team’s television announcers are employed by Fox.
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