It turns out that 76ers and New Jersey Devils at-will workers will keep their current salaries.
After a lot of bad publicity, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the teams, has decided not to recoup some of its lost revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of the NBA and NHL’s suspended seasons.
“After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision,” HBSE founder Josh Harris said Tuesday in a statement. “We have reversed and will be paying these employees their full salaries."
But on Monday, the Sixers’ and Devils’ at-will employees making more than $50,000 were informed of temporary salary reductions of up to 20%. The reductions were to start on April 15 and run through June 30.
“This is an extraordinary time in our world – unlike any most of us have ever lived through before – and ordinary business decisions are not enough to meet the moment,” Harris said. “To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting this wrong.”
Sixers managing partner Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer are the co-chairmen of HBSE.
Not all members of the Sixers ownership group were consulted by Harris about the cut in pay, a person close to the organization told The Inquirer. The source also added that not all of the owners supported Harris’ decision to cut salaries for employees of the Sixers and Devils. And the source said minority owner Michael Rubin was among those taken by surprise and is upset.
“I’m a strong believer when you get something wrong, we must learn from it and fix it!" Rubin said in a statement via Twitter. “That’s exactly what happened here!! Truly appreciate everyone’s feedback — it was truly helpful.”
Harris and Blitzer took huge PR hits for initially deciding to reduce salaries. They were crushed on sports talk radio, by the media and on social media.
Early on Tuesday, Sixers center Joel Embiid had announced he was going to help the employees make up their salaries.
“In these trying times, I’m proud of the Sixers organization for reversing course and “doing a 180,” tweeted Embiid, who playfully nicknames himself “Do a 180." “Let’s focus on beating this Coronavirus now. Let’s be responsible and Trust the Process!!”
Embiid, a three-time All-Star, will continue to donate $500,000 to the COVID-19 medical relief to help survival and protection efforts in the community.
The amount of money he was set to give the at-will employees had yet to be determined due to it was based on who is affected.
The teams’ contracted employees — such as front office personnel and coaching staff members — also had been asked to take a 20% salary reduction. However, they weren’t forced to do so.
The team’s deadline to “volunteer” to accept the pay reduction was Thursday, according to ESPN.
But there will be no salary reductions to any staff members, the team said.
HBSE CEO Scott O’Neil, Sixers general manager Elton Brand, Sixers president of business operations Chris Heck, and Devils president Jake Reynolds had agreed to the reduction.
There was understandably some hesitation with giving back money with the uncertainty of the coaching staff’s future. The expectation is that coach Brett Brown must advance deep in the playoffs to retain his job.
It wouldn’t had made sense for Brown to give back 20% of his salary without a guarantee that he and his staff are coming back.
NBA players have yet to be assured of receiving their full April 15 salaries due to their contracts. Teams are obligated to pay the full amount due to a clause they can invoke in emergency scenarios. A league source said players are being to told to be aware of a possible reduction in their April 15 salaries.
All NBA games were suspended March 11. League commissioner Adam Silver announced the next day that play would be suspended for at least 30 days. However, the NBA might not resume until June at the earliest.
The NHL announced on March 12 that its season would be suspended.