- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J (AP) - The New Jersey Nets gave some sports fans the chance to break into the business before their game Wednesday night.

With jobs harder to come by than at any point in decades, more than 700 people, dressed in business attire, attended the Nets’ fifth annual Sports Career Fair at the IZOD Center.

Admission to the Sports Fair was not free, but the registration fee of either $20 or $40 also included a discounted ticket to the Pistons-Nets contest with a free hot dog, soda and popcorn as part of the team’s Fan Appreciation Month.

The 2 1/2-hour event gave people, mostly recent or future college graduates, an opportunity to land a job in the sports industry.

“It’s a chance to get a foot in the door,” said Michael Forte, 31, who is unemployed and just went from a job in finance to finishing a degree from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.

Many of the positions being offered were non-paying internships and part-time seasonal. There were very few full-time positions in areas that included public relations, communications, sales and marketing, finance and broadcasting.

“I’m just trying to pay the bills, said Robert Unans, 55, who after owning a family entertainment center and bar for 22 years, is finding it difficult to find employment.

Representatives from almost two dozen sports organizations were on hand to talk to prospective employees. Participants included minor league teams (Camden Riversharks, New Jersey Jackals, Lakewood Blueclaws and Trenton Devils); major league (Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, N.Y. Islanders, New York Red Bulls) and sports facilities (Madison Square Garden, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and Prudential Center).

Several colleges (George Washington University, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Centenary College) hoped to provide an alternative for job seekers.

“When employment is down, people usually go for advanced degrees,” said Prof. Anthony Missere, director of the sport management program at St. John’s. “Our program is designed to meet the need for people in a growing global sports industry.”

The Nets were hoping to help those fans who have joined the recently growing number of unemployed in the U.S. The unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent nationally in February, the highest in more than 25 years.

“In both New York and New Jersey the unemployment rate continues to soar, so it is more important than ever to hold this Sports Career Fair and give our unemployed fans an opportunity to find a job,” Nets CEO Brett Yormark said in a statement. “This is an extremely challenging time and we are committed to using our resources to help our fans.”

In November, the team held a job fair that included from sports and non-sports companies. The longest lines for that event were for the N.Y. Yankees and the National Basketball Association.

The team has also had people sign up for its Nets Employment Program, which provided 1,500 unemployed fans with free tickets to one of five home games. Fans were able to submit their resumes to the team, which were passed along to prospective employers, including its corporate partners.

TeamWork Online, an organization that assists in recruiting and identifying candidates for open sports positions, helped in the registration process.

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