The NBA’s decision to suspend the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic put team and arena employees around the league in an unfortunate financial position. After Golden State Warriors management said fans should feel sorry for low-income workers instead of wealthy players or front office employees, star players around the league stepped up to help those workers.
Kevin Love donated $100K to help Cavaliers arena workers and staff. Giannis Antetokounmpo did the same for Bucks employees. Zion Williamson also made a generous donation to Pelicans employees. As players volunteer their own money to help workers around the league, some teams joined in the effort to do the same. The Chicago Bulls are one team that decided to pay their arena employees through the end of the scheduled season. Unfortunately, there is still more work to be done.
The New York Times and ESPN reported the Philadelphia 76ers asked at-will team employees to take a 20 percent salary reduction if they are making more than $50K per year on Monday. A day after the report, Sixers star Joel Embiid pledged $500K for those affected by coronavirus, with the money ticketed to go to health and medical relief as well as Sixers employees.
After significant blow back on Twitter, Sixers owners decided to reverse course. Here’s a statement from the team:
While it has been great to see the 76ers eventually do the right thing, it’s just one example of why there needs to be public pressure on the wealthy to take care of their less fortunate employees during this pandemic. It shouldn’t be this way, but unfortunately that’s the reality of this moment in time.
Why is it always the less fortunate asked to take a pay cut?
This is a rhetorical question. The wealthy are always the people who make these decisions, and too often they choose to protect their own money even if it’s far more damaging to the lives of their employees when their salary gets cut.
I’ll let my colleague Mike Prada put it in perspective:
How many at-will employee reductions will it take to equal the richest guys in the organization taking even a one percent cut on their income? It'd save way more money if the richest just took a smaller cut.— Mike Prada. I have spoken (@MikePradaSBN) March 24, 2020
Unless ... saving money isn't really the point of this. https://t.co/JikV2TLFa7
If my salary is $10 million, and I take a one percent cut on that and ONLY make $9,900,000 (oh the humanity!), it'd save the business the same amount of money as making five people who make $100,000 take a 20-percent reduction.— Mike Prada. I have spoken (@MikePradaSBN) March 24, 2020
The math isn't hard. And yet...
So as is often the case, this policy isn't just cruel, it's also a dumb way to accomplish your stated goal of keeping the business afloat.— Mike Prada. I have spoken (@MikePradaSBN) March 24, 2020
Put it this way: The Sixers’ ownership group isn’t broke. They bought the team for $280 million in 2011. It’s now valued at $2 billion. Josh Harris reportedly has a net worth of $3.9 billion. Partner Michael Rubin has a fortune that stands at $2.9 billion.
These are the people who should be accepting a lesser salary because of the pandemic, not the people they employ at a low wage to help the business run.
It’s great that stars are stepping up, but it should fall on the owners
Yes, it’s wonderful to see players like Williamson, Antetokounmpo, and Love step up to help less fortune workers. The Cavs announced they would create a compensation plan to pay the event staff and hourly workforce after Love’s donation. The Bucks matched Antetokounmpo’s donation.
At the same time, NBA owners shouldn’t need their highest-paid employees (the players) to take care of their lowest-paid employees. They should have been volunteering take a hit on what’s ultimately a microscopic percentage of their wealth without public pressure.
As we seen with the Sixers and several other other franchises, public pressure works. NBA owners might not make quite as much money due to this global pandemic, but they are still wealthy beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The values of their franchises have still skyrocketed over recent years. They will be fine.
For everyone else, just being able to pay rent and put food on the table is an issue during these uncertain times. Hopefully, a little public pressure can make the world a brighter place for everyone, not just America’s most fortunate citizens.