Around the league, as news of the season’s suspension because of the coronavirus settles in, we’ve seen a few examples of generosity toward the local employees who provide the manpower behind the scenes of NBA games. That means the beer vendors, the pizza cooks, the janitors, the ticket-takers and an army of others, all of whom are paid hourly and rely on games being played.
Adam Silver, speaking on TNT on Thursday night, said that the suspension is expected to last at least 30 days. It could go longer, however. The league would like to have a coordinated approach to how it handles hourly wage-earners during the crisis, according to a source, but as of now, it’s been a patchwork reaction.
On Thursday in Los Angeles, the union that represents about 5,600 workers who staff the eight pro teams that play in the city sent a letter to the team owners of the Lakers and Clippers, as well as the Angels and Dodgers in MLB, the Sparks of the WNBA, the NHL’s Kings and the Galaxy and LAFC of Major League Soccer, asking that workers continue to receive wages and health care benefits where applicable.
In the NBA, the Lakers and Clippers certainly can afford to help their workers. The Lakers are the No. 2 team on the league’s Forbes valuation list, at $4.4 billion. The Clippers are No. 6, at $2.6 billion.
Kelly Cheeseman, who is the CEO of AEG, which operates the Staples Center and the L.A. Kings, told the L.A. Times that plans are being talked about for gameday employees.
“I can tell you that conversation is happening not only locally,” he said, “but I think across the nation at this point.”
Cuban, Hawks Owner to Help Employees
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced as soon as the season was suspended that the team would establish a program—perhaps asking gameday employees to participate in volunteer work—to take care of those employees.
“They get paid by the hour, and this was their source of income,” Cuban said. “So, we’ll do some things there. We may ask them to go do some volunteer work in exchange, but we’ve already started the process of having a program in place. I don’t have any details to give, but it’s certainly something that’s important to me.”
Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler said he would do the same. “This is how, in my opinion, good business should be run,” Ressler said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We want them to know that we’re committed to them, just as we want them to be committed to us. This is a relatively easy decision, it has been, for our senior staff.
“It seems to most of us it’s just the right thing to do. I don’t think it’s ever been a debate in our shop. Frankly, I’m proud of that. We’re thrilled to do it. We expected to do it.”
Cavs’ Kevin Love Makes Big Donation
Cavaliers star Kevin Love announced that he was donating $100,000 to help out Cleveland gameday employees during the suspension. On Twitter, Cody Zeller of the Hornets said he would follow suit: “We all have fun playing and watching NBA games, but many of our hard working hourly employees and support staff depend on wages from our home games. We’re going to make sure that they’re taken care of! Even if I have to pay out of pocket to help out.”
Across the league, teams are indicating they’ll come up with plans to care for hourly employees. The Cavaliers and Pistons both told Yahoo! Sports that they were working on compensation plans for day-of-game employees.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers expressed concern for hourly workers on Wednesday night, according to USA Today. But the Warriors don’t yet have a plan in place.
“We feel for the workers, mostly, the low-income wage earners that count on working our games,” Myers said. “If you’re going to have empathy, have it for them, not for us.”