Ringer Union Runs the Risk of Leading Their Rank-and-File Off a Cliff

I want to preface this piece by saying that it is my opinion based on nearly two decades of observing Bill Simmons and is not based on any inside information about his or Spotify’s plans with The Ringer. With that out of the way, the publicly abrasive manner in which the Ringer union is poking Simmons may ultimately lead to short-term victories but I think that in the long run he’ll never get over it and the rank-and-file workers are marching themselves off a cliff.

The Ringer staffers first announced they were unionizing last August, and at the time their tone was largely positive. They collectively said their intent was “to strengthen our already amazing workplace culture.” The tone of individual staffers similarly indicated that they loved where they worked and wanted to keep it that way. Over the past year, the relationship has grown more fractious. This past January, after reporting first emerged that Ringer could sell to Spotify, the union blasted Simmons for his silence (anything he could have said would’ve violated NDAs, which are common in these transactions).

This past June, the union collaborated with the New York Times on a hit piece about Simmons and the lack of diversity at The Ringer. Simmons made an infamous comment about how this wasn’t “open mic night” — he had a fair point that he was taken out of context, and that his answer was framed as having to do with diversity but in fact had nothing to do with that in his email answer, but it was still a hubristic thing for him to say.

Fast-forward to Labor Day and today. They’re not directly naming him, but The Ringer union is putting Simmons on blast for entry-level compensation and advancement opportunities. Some examples:

I’ll grant them that the pandemic has proven it’s outdated for The Ringer to compel entry-level staffers to live in Los Angeles when they could live handsomely in, like, Racine, Wisconsin for $43,000 a year. Nevertheless, the pie chart also acts like it’s their inalienable right to own a car fresh out of college, and that they can’t find rent for under $1,369 a month. I know LA is more expensive than Chicago, but in the latter my share of rent for a three-bedroom duplex a block from a great park and close to public transit is $1,000. I was paying about $625 a month in my mid-20’s. There must be more economical rent situations than $1,369 a month for them somewhere in the region. Utilities also look pretty high. They’re entitled to live without roommates?

I’m sensitive to the argument that low entry-level compensation is a barrier to non-privileged workers’ ability to take the job, but $43,000 a year doesn’t seem like a grave injustice for coveted jobs that can be leveraged into individual stardom. And who in sports media do they think is getting overtime pay?

There are benefits to working at The Ringer right now that are not immediately tangible, but for which they should nonetheless have gratitude. When they explain to friends, family members, and strangers alike where they work they are likely to be met with interest and envy. Just being associated with The Ringer will propel their individual branding in the long run. Hardly a month goes by where I don’t see a press release about someone who wrote for Grantland getting an exciting new opportunity.

Yes, Spotify bought The Ringer for nine figures and thus could probably afford to pay rank-and-file workers more. However, how much of the revenue comes from Bill Simmons’ podcast and those of other stars? There’s no way to know, exactly, but the answer is almost all of it.

The last six months in media, to say nothing for the last five years, have been a steady flow of news about layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts. Have you read anything about that happening at The Ringer?

This isn’t to fully absolve Bill Simmons. There are so many people on the masthead at The Ringer that there are distinct tiers of Haves and Have-nots. Most of the Haves worked with him at Grantland, are his personal friends, or already had robust careers before their present jobs. There are some people, like basketball writer Kevin O’Connor, who have massively elevated themselves at The Ringer, but it does feel like there was more opportunity for personal advancement at Grantland.

Nonetheless, the platform has the potential for writers to pursue original ideas and have the time to fully flesh them out. If they do something great there, it gets noticed by a lot of smart readers and marketplace decision-makers. There’s ample space for them to carve out a niche.

I don’t know what the right way to go about solving these issues for the union would be, but what they’re doing isn’t that. They’ve already created a resentment from Simmons where he barely shares any union members’ work on Twitter, and tags them in those tweets even less frequently. That’s now. Later will come a point where Simmons, his editorial management team, and the people at Spotify huddle and wonder what the right size is for The Ringer. These tweet threads, which get cheered on by digital writers on the coasts, aren’t going to wind up having been a winning strategy.

Written by Ryan Glasspiegel

Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.


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  1. A writer is born everyday, can be done at anytime by anyone who is willing to write. The idea that a union will do anything but create resentment with management is absurd.One reason why a union works is its members are irreplaceable (see Police and sports unions). This isnt the case at all.

  2. I used to read Simmons – until he called the NFL a slave plantation. There aren’t enough bad things that can happen to his career as far as I’m concerned. He has disgusting points of view, and everything in the world revolves around his stupid fucking Boston sports fandom, according to him. I didn’t even realize until after he pushed me away how dumb his homer-infused articles were.

  3. Before the the Ringer’s recent hard-left, woke turn I listened to Ringer podcasts almost everyday. There were probably 6-7 I listened to somewhat to very regularly. Still listen to a couple on occasion: Simmons’s own and the Big Picture. In that NY Times piece one of the employees complained about the Ringer not being diverse enough on record. I believe he was hispanic and hosted one of the many(at the time) NBA podcasts. I checked a couple times thereafter to see if he still he worked there. I couldn’t find evidence.

    Btw, much of that podcast drive time the Ringer occupied for me has gone to Outkick.

  4. Uhhh..

    1) Who the hell pays only $2664/yr on student loans? That’s only $222/month. Sounds to me like people with no budgeting skills or ambition to knock out debt.

    2) Why can’t they find a place in East Los Angeles for way cheaper? I guess these yuppies aren’t very tolerant of the Latinos.

    3) Why would you need a union if you’re a writer? You don’t work at a factory, you write. Build an audience and use that as leverage.

  5. What group of entry-level workers start a union because they feel that they are at a great place to work, and want to make it better? So disingenous. What a bad move for these writers. What moron is advising these newbies? People hear about these big numbers that The Ringer sold for and want a cut- plain and simple. These writers need to “unionize” to share and reduce expenses. Ten years down the line, they can all reminisce about the early days in L.A. working for Ben Simmons and how he was so important to their success. These writers are a bunch of crybabies that paid too much for their low return “education.”

  6. The Ringer can’t fire or punish writers for trying to organize into a union. However, The Ringer doesn’t have to enter an agreement with them. The legal road down the “no union agreement” situation is a long one, and this post is a start to the argument that The Ringer isn’t entertaining a fair bargain.

  7. Never understood why one person’s risk, hard work, intelligence,, and own initiative earns the lowest, least valuable, easiest replaceable employee a six-figure income. Simply because the one who built it succeeded.

    These whiners certainly wouldn’t pull anything out of their own pocket to help Simmons if his site failed.

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