In the days since the NBA suspended its season in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, athletes around the league have rallied to financially assist non-salaried arena employees and event staff that looked to be left in the dark by the indefinite postponement of games.
Kevin Love became the first to make a gesture when he pledged $100,000 to Cavaliers arena and support staff during the league’s hiatus:
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Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. And the fear and anxiety resulting from the recent outbreak of COVID-19 can be extremely overwhelming. Through the game of basketball, we've been able to address major issues and stand together as a progressive league that cares about the players, the fans, and the communities where we work. I'm concerned about the level of anxiety that everyone is feeling and that is why I'm committing $100,000 through the @KevinLoveFund in support of the @Cavs arena and support staff that had a sudden life shift due to the suspension of the NBA season. I hope that during this time of crisis, others will join me in supporting our communities. Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon. They affect individuals and society on so many levels, with stigma and xenophobia being just two aspects of the impact of a pandemic outbreak. It's important to know that those with a mental illness may be vulnerable to the effects of widespread panic and threat. Be kind to one another. Be understanding of their fears, regardless if you don't feel the same. Be safe and make informed decisions during this time. And I encourage everyone to take care of themselves and to reach out to others in need -- whether that means supporting your local charities that are canceling events, or checking in on your colleagues and family.
On Friday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin and Zion Williamson followed in Love’s footsteps:
It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier. Me and my family pledge to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. We can get through this together! 🙏🏽— Giannis Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) March 13, 2020
New Orleans' Zion Williamson says he is pledging to cover the salaries for all of the Pelicans arena staff workers for the next 30 days.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 13, 2020
Rudy Gobert, the first player in the NBA to test positive for COVID-19, chipped in $500,000 for an employee relief fund:
Rudy Gobert is donating more than $500,000 to support both the employee relief fund at Vivint Smart Home Arena and COVID-related social services relief in Utah, Oklahoma City and within the French health care system.— utahjazz (@utahjazz) March 14, 2020
Some teams and ownership groups have done the same.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for one, has been upfront about Dallas’ intent to put together a compensation package for hourly employees from the get-go. This statement from Cuban was made mere hours after the suspension of the season was first announced:
“I reached out ... to find out what it would cost to financially support people who aren’t going to be able to come to work.”— ESPN (@espn) March 12, 2020
–Mark Cuban on his plan for Mavericks employees during the NBA suspension pic.twitter.com/McOl1vHUqO
Cuban has since elaborated on those plans, saying that for the Mavericks’ next four scheduled home games, the organization will pay hourly employees “as if they worked.”
THIS JUST IN — On ESPN’s ‘Get Up,’ Mark Cuban says hourly employees at the American Airlines Center will be paid for next four (4) Mavs games that were scheduled to be played "as if they worked" #MFFL pic.twitter.com/hU8760WqqU— T̷R̷O̷Y̷ ̷H̷U̷G̷H̷E̷S̷ (@TommySledge) March 12, 2020
And the Cavaliers, by whom Love is employed, announced that they plan to compensate all Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse employees as if previously scheduled events were taking place:
The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers announced that they plan to compensate all Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse employees, hourly and event staff team members, as if every game and every event is still taking place.👏👏👏— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) March 13, 2020
The Phoenix Suns guaranteed all part-time and hourly workers at Talking Stick Resort Arena full compensation for their six remaining previously scheduled home games:
Add Phoenix to the list of teams pic.twitter.com/HapcDY9KGP— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) March 14, 2020
The DeVos family, who own the Orlando Magic, announced a $2 million compensation package for hourly workers (Magic players have also contributed):
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Golden State Warriors will donate $1 million to their disaster relief fund for arena employees:
The Golden State Warriors ownership, players and coaches will donate $1 million to disaster relief fund for their arena employees.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 14, 2020
The Trail Blazers are currently formulating a plan to pay their part-time arena employees, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic:
Source at Trail Blazers says organization is formulating plan to pay their part-time arena employees for the 9 home games canceled by the NBA because of COVID-19. They will reassess the program in 30 days.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) March 13, 2020
Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Hawks owner Tony Ressler has expressed an intention to “take care of” full- and part-time employees, though no official plans have been rolled out yet.
Dana Gauruder of the Detroit Free Press reported that the Pistons, who employ Griffin, will pay all of their full- and part-time employees during the hiatus, as well as look to provide financial assistance to outside companies who help staff Little Caesars Arena.
According to Farbod Esnaashari of Sports Illustrated, full- and part-time Clippers employees have been assured they’ll be paid in accordance with their regular schedule, though Staples Center personnel are still unsure of how they’ll be compensated.
The Milwaukee Bucks committed to matching Antetokounmpo’s donation, as well as any Bucks player that might donate in the future:
Following the donation of $100,000 by @Giannis_An34 to the impacted Fiserv Forum staff, the Bucks organization is proud to match all Bucks player donations to part-time arena workers. pic.twitter.com/BV02TGua0z— Milwaukee Bucks (at 🏠) (@Bucks) March 13, 2020
The New Orleans Pelicans put out the following statement:
Statement from the New Orleans Pelicans: pic.twitter.com/BIE9IdGX97— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 13, 2020
And finally: “We are considering ways to help our impacted employees,” said a United Center spokesperson when asked for comment.
Sometimes the darkest times can breed the most heartening gestures. Many across the league are proving that. These are unchartered waters, so the hope is, with time, everyone in need is addressed in an appropriate manner.