It’s not that the callous corporate suits that made the decision to lay off Celtics sideline reporter Abby Chin didn’t know how good she became at her job, how respected she is by the team’s players and personnel, or how well-liked she is by NBC Sports Boston viewers.
It’s even colder than that. They probably didn’t know who she is at all.
Maybe it’s too late for them to find out, and maybe they would be unmoved once they did. But if common sense and social media reaction can both be used as gauges, it’s that NBC Sports Boston executives should be doing everything they can to reverse this decision and keep Chin around for seasons to come. She is not someone a competent corporation that cares about its product sends away.
Chin and 18 other colleagues at NBC Sports Boston, including longtime host Gary Tanguay and reporters A. Sherrod Blakely and Joe Haggerty, were among the local victims of a massive layoff by parent company NBCUniversal, which began Monday and were expected to affect 10 percent of the company’s approximately 35,000 full-time employees.
The downsizing reached far beyond the staffs of its regional cable sports networks in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia, all of which took personnel hits. The cuts also came from Universal Studios, its theme parks, its digital properties (including NBC Sports), and its various broadcast networks.
It was a massive corporate bloodletting, and while there’s probably little to no comfort to be found among those who lost their jobs at NBCSB Monday and Tuesday, it really wasn’t a reflection of their competence or performance. It was about saving a few bucks during a pandemic that has ravaged bottom lines. Much easier to take, right?
OK, maybe not. From the corporate view, it’s a case of cutting the gig, not the person, and it’s not supposed to be personal. But to those affected – and to those fans and viewers that feel a connection to people they see on their televisions talking about their favorite teams every night – it feels like it is nothing but personal.
Not that this is anything new. If I wrote something every time cold corporate calculations ruined a good thing in sports media, let’s just say this little media column would be running multiple times per week. But the situation with Chin, who has been the Celtics’ smart and charismatic sideline reporter on the network’s broadcasts since 2013, is particularly bewildering.
Sources at NBC Sports Boston said that they were told that the decisions were made on the corporate level, the positions lost were similar across the company’s regional networks, and the decisions ultimately were out of the hands of senior vice president and general manager Chris Wayland and vice president, content creation and strategy Kevin Miller.
Wayland and Miller are both good at their jobs and have proven forthright in past interactions, and I believe this was not ultimately their call. But it also is worth noting that while several studio and reporting positions were cut across the various regional cable networks, the NBA sideline reporter positions were not uniformly axed.
Well-respected Kerith Burke still has her job for NBC Sports Bay Area. In Chicago, studio host Leah Rahimi was let go, with White Sox and Bulls sideline reporter Chuck Garfien reportedly taking on some of her duties. In Washington and Philadelphia, sideline reporters Chris Miller (who is also a studio host) and Serena Winters remain to cover the Wizards and Sixers, respectively.
I’m not about to get into a Twitter cesspool type of debate about why this person should have lost their job instead of that one. But I know this: Chin should have kept hers, and if there is any way possible that her bosses at NBC Sports Boston can figure out a way to convince corporate to let them keep her around, they should get on it immediately.
Chin will be staying around through the Celtics’ stay in the bubble, which should temporarily appease the masses of frustrated fans who are deploying the #freeabby hashtag on Twitter and signing a change.org petition (more than 1,800 signatures as of Friday afternoon) to convince NBC Sports Boston to retain her.
“THANK YOU EVERYONE for all of the love and support!,’’ she wrote on Twitter Friday morning. “I truly can’t describe how much it means to me. You are giving me so much light during this difficult week. I will cherish it always!
“But, this isn’t goodbye just yet. When I received the news, I was offered the choice to finish out the season and I’m taking it! I’m not ready for this incredible ride to be over.”
THANK YOU EVERYONE for all of the love and support! I truly can’t describe how much it means to me. You are giving me so much light during this difficult week. I will cherish it always!
— Abby Chin (@tvabby) August 7, 2020
Celtics fans, clearly, aren’t ready for it to end, either. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll say it loud enough that the calculating people who make such decisions will hear it.