With the coronavirus pandemic halting nearly every sporting event originally scheduled for the next few weeks, arena workers across the country suddenly find themselves out of work.
NBA figures like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and star players Giannis Anetokounmpo, Zion Williamson, and Kevin Love have pledged money to counteract the losses some are facing. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league’s hiatus would last “at least 30 days" during an interview Thursday on TNT. The league suspended play shortly after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, leading to the cancellation of the Jazz’s game at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Comcast Spectacor, the owner of the Wells Fargo Center, will continue paying arena employees and full-time Comcast Spectacor employees at least for the next two weeks, according to a statement by Valerie Camillo, the company’s president of business operations.
Camillo’s release says employees have been asked to work from home moving forward with all full-time employees being paid for their work. Hourly workers will be paid for the time they were originally scheduled to work over the next two weeks, the statement said.
“All game-day employees who were originally scheduled to work Flyers, 76ers and Wings games that have now been postponed between March 14 [and March] 31 will be paid for their scheduled hours, despite those games not taking place,” Camillo said.
During the 76ers’ and Flyers’ inactivity, Sixers owners and managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who also own the New Jersey Devils, pledged to pay hourly and event staff at the Devils’ home arena, according to an NHL Network report.
A Sixers official told The Inquirer that Harris and Blitzer have committed to paying their hourly and game-night 76ers staff for postponed games. Via email, Harris and Blitzer reiterated that their employees are “the heartbeat of the organization” and that they felt it was “important to band together and lift each other up during times like this.”
Love, the veteran Cavaliers forward, jump-started the support effort Thursday, pledging $100,000 to aid workers at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse while 29 NBA arenas close their doors for the time being. He told ESPN he hopes his donation leads to others contributing to the cause. The Cavs and arena management issued a joint statement saying they are working on “a compensation plan to continue paying our event staff and hourly workforce that is impacted with the changes to our regular event schedule.”
Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans’ rookie sensation, and Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee’s reigning NBA MVP, followed suit with similar pledges for the workers in their home arenas.
In the NHL, Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s donation of $100,000 to part-time workers at the Panthers’ arena was followed by donations by his teammates and a pledge from ownership.
Cuban said Friday he, too, would be paying American Airlines Center staff during the hiatus.
“It was one of the first things that crossed my mind, in that, when we postponed games, those folks who do all the jobs you mentioned aren’t going to get paid,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “People who are working by the hour aren’t going to get paid. So, we put together a program where we’re going to pay them as if those games took place. We would have had a game against the Phoenix Suns coming up tomorrow, and we’ll pay them as if that game happened.”
Cuban encouraged other NBA owners to follow suit in supporting arena staff.
“And, I say the same thing to hourly workers,” he said. “Be cognizant of the circumstances of your company. You know, if CEOs and even small entrepreneurs can work together with their employees, you can find a resolution and, hopefully, over the next couple of months all the virus stuff resolves itself and everybody can keep their jobs. But, it’s going to take CEOs and employees working together to make that happen.”