As NFL Lockout Looms, Jets Warn Staff of Furloughs

But it's better than getting laid off

When we hear about the impending NFL lockout, thoughts often drift to some form of the "billionaires vs. millionaires" argument. And in general, that argument holds true.

People who already make ridiculous sums of money are, to paraphrase George W. Bush, fighting to make the pie higher. The owners come off as selfish and out of touch. We know this because the players, who averaged $1.9 million a year in 2009 (median salary: $790,000), are painted as victims.

But the real victims aren't those hauling in at least six figures annually. They are the team employees working behind the scenes, out of view of the cameras and the spotlight.

The league and the players union have been in meetings with a mediator all week as they try to avoid what seems inevitable: a lockout on March 4. While they haggle over who gets what and for how much, the Jets are preparing for the worst, which means that people responsible for the organization's day-to-day operations could see a reduction in their work schedule.

Details via The New York Times: "The Jets confirmed a Sports Business Journal report that 96 business-side employees would be required to take a one-week unpaid furlough each month until a labor deal was reached. If there is a lockout but no games are missed in the 2011 season, the employees will be reimbursed by the Jets for their lost wages. They will be able to collect unemployment during their missed time, the team said."

It could be worse. Furloughs -- and the possibility of reimbursement -- is much better than getting laid off.

“Although we fully expect an agreement to be reached, it just makes sense to plan for the worst, and this plan is about shared sacrifice across the organization to get through a period of uncertainty,” Matt Higgins, the Jets’ executive vice president for business operations, told the Times. “Rather than a straight reduction in salary, furloughs enable us to cut back expenses but also give employees some time off.”

Still, these are greed's unintended consequences. But you get the sense that the players union is, if only slightly, starting to win the public relations battle against the owners. Recent missteps by the league -- including the Super Bowl seating fiasco and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's contention that "fans want 18 games" when numerous polls showed just the opposite -- may have helped nudge the two sides into more than 40 hours of talks this week, with the real hope of reaching an agreement before the March 4 deadline.

For now, though, a lockout looms. But don't worry. Should it get that far, the Jets, in addition to furloughs, will take other cost-cutting measures including "hiring few[er] consultants, subscribing to fewer publications and scaling back on attendance at conferences."

No word on if the Jets had to hire somebody to tell them that.

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