NBA Players, Owners, and Teams Give Back Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
March 11, 2020, will go down in NBA history as the day basketball stopped. On this date, the NBA suspended the current season amid coronavirus concerns. Although the NBA was the first league in the United States to take such action, soon the other leagues followed suit.
Mark Cuban, the owner of Dallas Mavericks, was the first to speak out about the workers at the American Airlines Center. Cuban watched the news unfold on his phone while his team was on the court playing. He promised he would take care of the Mavericks’ hourly employees, realizing immediately the impact the suspension was going to have across the league. The NBA would show the world the generosity of so many in the league amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Within the following days, teams, owners, and some of the players themselves pledged to assist the hourly and part-time employees. The NBA opened their heart and wallets to help those who keep the wheels turning during the season.
NBA Players, Owners, and Teams Give Back Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Several NBA team owners have stepped up to the plate and have made donations to the community, in addition to what the individual teams have pledged. Below, we highlight a few NBA owners who have opened their wallets and their hearts in this time of crisis.
As mentioned above, Mark Cuban, was the first owner to pledge his commitment to pay the employees of the American Airlines Center. Cuban is also committed to the independent local businesses in the Dallas area, as well as any area where he has a business, by offering reimbursement to employees for breakfast and lunch meals.
The coronavirus outbreak has far-reaching effects and the food and beverage industry is taking one of the largest economic hits – both the businesses and employees. Incentives like Cuban’s reimbursement program is also providing assistance to the larger community. Cuban was the first to say “it’s about life and family, not basketball and money.”
In light of the current situation, the Dallas Mavericks organization announced today that it will provide full reimbursement to employees for breakfast or lunch purchases made from independent local establishments in the region. pic.twitter.com/dVenXQAdAq
— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) March 14, 2020
The owner of the Atlanta Hawks committed his support of the team’s hourly, part-time, and arena employees two weeks before the suspension of the season. Kessler pledged to pay all employees as if the season wasn’t suspended. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitutional, Kessler said this in response to the coronavirus crisis:
“We have a pretty clear set of priorities in this kind of remarkable time that we’re living through,” Ressler said. “Protecting our fans, protecting our employees, and protecting the reputation of our league, all of which is important, but let there be no confusion, that means taking care of all of our employees, our full-time, our part-time.”
Micky and Madeline Arison
Micky Arison and his wife Madeline have pledged to donate $1 million to a fund dedicated to helping their employees affected by the coronavirus crisis. This donation is in addition to the team’s commitment to the arena workers. The Arison family has a long history of philanthropy, so their commitment to the Miami Heat employees isn’t surprising.
The DeVos Family
The DeVos family has owned the Orlando Magic organization for 29 years and has given much back to the community over the years. In response to the coronavirus crisis, the DeVos family has created a two-million-dollar compensation fund. This fund will assist the employees of the Orlando Magic, Amway Center, Lakeland Magic, and the Orlando Solar Bears.
Many of the league’s team owners are vowing to take care of their employees, no matter their employment status within the operation of the organization, and these owners personify giving back to the community. The next section will highlight many of the league’s players who have made personal pledges.
Rudy Gobert, center for the Utah Jazz, was the first player to test positive for the COVID-19 virus. Other players would soon also test positive, causing several teams to go into quarantine. Gobert, who had joked about the virus before his diagnosis, split $500,000 between several organizations. The donations included $200,000 to the gameday employees fund and $100,000 each to the families affected by the coronavirus in Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City. Goebert, who is from France, also sent 100,000 Euros to assist the healthcare system in testing and treating the virus.
Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers was the first player to make a large donation to those whose employment is affected by the suspension of the season. The day after the suspension was announced, Love donated $100,000 to the staff of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavalier’s home. Love released the following Instagram post in response to the coronavirus crisis.
View this post on Instagram
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.
Detroit Pistons power forward Blake Griffin was one of the first to follow suit of Kevin Love. Griffin also donated $100,000 to the employees of the Little Ceasar’s Arena in Detroit.
back at you. just following suit https://t.co/eQHrdodond
— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin23) March 13, 2020
Giannis Antetkokounmpo, the power forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, joined Love and Griffin and made a $100,000 donation to the employees of Fiserv Forum – the homecourt of the Bucks. The Greek Freak also shares the feeling that it’s bigger than basketball as expressed in this tweet.
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
Zion Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans rookie that was touted to get the Rookie of the Year Award before his injury, also gave back to the place he now calls home. Williamson pledged to cover the salaries of those employed at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans for the initial 30-day suspension. Williamson expresses his feelings in the following Instagram post.
View this post on Instagram
The people of New Orleans have been incredibly welcoming and supportive since I was Drafted by the Pels last June, and some of the most special people I have met are those who work at smoothie King Center. These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organization. Unfortunately, many of them are still recovering from long term challenges created by Katrina, and now face the economic impact of the postponement of games because of the virus. My mother has always set an example for me about being respectful for others and being grateful for what we have, and so today I am pledging to cover the salaries for all of those Smoothie King Center workers for the next 30 days. This is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates and hopefully we can all join together to relieve some of the stress and hardship caused by this national health crisis. This is an incredibly resilient city full of some of the most resilient people, but sometimes providing a little extra assistance can make things a little easier for the community.
Steph Curry and his wife Ayesha are helping in their area by donating to the Alameda County Community Food Bank in addition to a separate donation to the organization, Feeding America. The commitment to feed children isn’t anything new to the Curry’s, as they have a foundation that does just that.
Oakland is closing schools bc of COVID-19. We support this decision but are concerned a/b the 18,000+ kids that rely on school for 2+ meals daily. @eatlearnplay is donating to @ACCFB to ensure every child has access to the food they need. Join us & donate https://t.co/nDqF7OoO0Z pic.twitter.com/nFp0w1eFqH
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) March 14, 2020
Donovan Mitchell, Gobert’s teammate, was also diagnosed with the coronavirus. The Utah Jazz announced via the NBA that Mitchell would make partner with the Granite County School District, one of the largest in Utah, to ensure children would continue receiving meals in spite of school closures.
Jonathan Issac, the Orlando Magic forward, has committed to providing children in Orlando breakfast and lunch on weekdays for the length of the crisis.
Head to my Instagram for full video with specifics about how you can get involved! S/o to an amazing church @jumpministries, commissioner District 5 @ReginaHillFL, and everyone who is working to combat the Corona virus! We’re doing it our way! “Covid-19 Ready, set, feed! 🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/6H2GQM4qWs
— Jonathan Isaac (@JJudahIsaac) March 22, 2020
Several of Issac’s teammates have also pledged to assist the community and the arena employees. Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Michael Carter-Williams are a few of the Orlando Magic players to join Issac.
Joel Embiid, the center for the Philadelphia 76ers has committed $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief, specifically to help survival and protection efforts. Embiid has also committed to helping the employees directly affected by the suspension of the season.
Philadelphia 76ers star @JoelEmbiid has decided to pledge $500K to COVID-19 medical relief—to help survival and protection efforts in the community. AND he’s committed to helping Sixers employees who will suffer financial hardship in light of the franchise’s salary reductions.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) March 24, 2020
Danilo Gallinari, who plays power forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, collaborated with the Oklahoma City health department to help the community. He is directly donating to the Oklahoma City community, the health care workers on the front line, and the most vulnerable in the community. With the help of the health department, Gallinari funded 400 coronavirus testing kits and donated funds for personal protective equipment for those mentioned above.
Kyrie Irving, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets this season, is also making a donation to Feeding America. Irving has committed to a $323,000 donation to the organization and also will help distribute 250,000 meals to the New York City community.
Nets' Kyrie Irving says he is donating $323,000 to Feeding America amid the coronavirus pandemic impacting food resources, and helping distribute 250,000 meals in the New York area.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 23, 2020
Zach LaVine, the shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls, pledged to donate 12,500 meals in his hometown of Seattle via Feeding America.
I want to do my part and help my communities as much as I can during this difficult time. I’m starting off by committing 12,500 meals to the city of Seattle with @FeedingAmerica. As you know, I grew up here in Seattle and will always be #seattlestrong
— Zach LaVine (@ZachLaVine) March 21, 2020
The NBA players highlighted above have stepped up in this time of national crisis and are giving back to their communities. As a result, their commitment to the community is setting a good example, Leading by example proves we can come together in these unprecedented times.
Nearly every team, whether it is a personal commitment from the owner of the team or the team as a whole, has pledged to assist those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Several teams have pledged to cover the pay of their respective arena’s employees. The teams below have made these commitments. As of publication, the time frame varies from team to team, but some sort of compensation is being provided by the teams. Below is a sampling of the teams that have committed to paying part-time, hourly, and game-night employees.
The Boston Celtics have committed to paying the “game-night” staff of the Boston Gardens, for the remainder of the season.
Official statement from the Boston Celtics https://t.co/ldYqJuuRYU
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 12, 2020
The Nets have pledged to pay non-salaried employees their typical paycheck through May, including all events that are not related to the team.
A note from the Nets and Barclays Center regarding all the incredible people that make our arena experience so special. pic.twitter.com/gPYtwYBD3U
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 14, 2020
The Chicago Bulls also have pledged to pay game-day employees for all of the previously scheduled Bulls and Blackhawks events.
Our employees, whether they be front office staff, or our approximately 1,200 day-of-game staff, are family, and we will navigate this unprecedented situation together.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 14, 2020
The Cavaliers will pay hourly employees and the event staff of the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse as if every event scheduled is still taking place.
Thank you @kevinlove — coming through in the clutch 🙏
We’re behind you, as we also announced earlier today that we are compensating all of our @RMFieldHouse hourly and event staff team members as if every game and every event is still taking place!
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 12, 2020
The Charlotte Hornets will pay the salaries of part-time employees at the Spectrum Center. This includes employees of the Charlotte Hornets and the Greensboro Swarm
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) March 15, 2020
The Denver Nuggets have also pledged to provide financial compensation for all of the workers at the team’s home court, the Pepsi Center.
The Houston Rockets plan to provide assistance to the hourly employees at the Toyota Center.
Rockets pledge to 'take care' of arena workers during stoppage https://t.co/d8mCAv3YwL
— The Rockets Wire (@TheRocketsWire) March 13, 2020
The owner of the Indiana Pacers, Herb Simon, has given financial assistance to the part-time employees of the Bankers Life Field House.
Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings
The Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, and the Staples Center came together and created a collaborative fund for hourly event staff. The fund was created in response to the suspension of NFL and NHL seasons and will assist almost 3,000 impacted employees.
The Miami Heat have pledged to donate funds to the food and beverage staff, security, and housekeeping staff at the AmericanAirlines Arena. This is in addition to the donation from the Heat’s owners mentioned above.
Heat announces it will provide disaster relief assistance to team and arena part-time employees & provide funds to their workers such as Levy Restaurants to assist their workers. And Arisons donating another $1 M to charitable fund for initiative for employees in coming months.
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) March 18, 2020
New York Knicks
The Knicks have also pledged to pay event staff for all Knicks and Rangers games through May.
Knicks owner James Dolan has also tested positive for COVID-19 and is doing well after the diagnosis.
James Dolan and MSG has stepped up and are paying the events staff until May. They previously only guaranteed payments until April 5. Good job by Dolan.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) March 28, 2020
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City has committed to paying both the employees of the team itself and the employees of the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 20, 2020
The Philadelphia 76ers have committed to paying all of the employees of the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers home court.
Sixers official says Josh Harris, David Blitzer will pay their dozens of hourly/game staff for postponed gms
“Its important to band together & lift each other up during times like this”
ComcastSpectacor says they’ll pay their staff at WFC (about 1,000) for games/events in March pic.twitter.com/QfCYqw8uKl
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) March 13, 2020
The Phoenix Suns have partnered with the arena and have committed to paying the staff at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have pledged $1.4 million to the employees of the Moda Center, the Trailblazers homecourt.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 19, 2020
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have created a $500,000 fund for the non-contract and part-time employees of the AT&T Center, home of the Spurs.
The Washington Wizards have pledged to pay the Capitol One Arena employees, including both the Wizards and Washington Capitals events.
Ted Leonsis informed Capital One Arena staff this morning that anyone scheduled to work an event – #Caps and Wizards games plus other events – through March 31 will be paid, a source tells me.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) March 13, 2020
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors announced in the following press release, collectively, the owners, management, coaches, and players of the Golden State Warriors have pledged $1 million in funds for the employees of the Chase Center.
Warriors ownership, players and coaches to contribute $1 million to disaster relief fund for Chase Center employees pic.twitter.com/42nYAalO9t
— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) March 14, 2020
The Minnesota Timberwolves have pledged a $100,000 donation to the Mayo Clinic in an effort to assist with COVID-19 research and testing. The owner of the Timberwolves released the following tweet in response to the coronavirus efforts.
@MayoClinic has begun rolling out a test to detect the virus that causes COVID-19. My hope is that we can fight this virus quicker and more efficiently by increasing the testing capabilities and availability and Mayo Clinic’s overall COVID-19 response. pic.twitter.com/af9vcO711p
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) March 16, 2020
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans owner, Gayle Benson, has committed to donating $1 million to her foundation, Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund. By donating to this fund, Benson feels not only will she be able to assist the employees of the Smoothie King Arena, but she will also be able to support the local community, who is also suffering as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. As New Orleans becomes the next hotspot for the coronavirus outbreak, there are numerous organizations reaching out to those in need.
Gayle Benson has personally donated $1 million to create the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund in response to the Coronavirus situation affecting so many lives in our community.
Read more ⬇️https://t.co/mwjgL9dD0S
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 16, 2020
The Toronto Raptors have collaborated with four other Toronto based sports teams to create a fund for all of the workers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent suspension of sports.
In addition, the employees of the Scotiabank Arena used the food that would have gone to waste as a consequence of the arena closure to prepare food packages for those are in need.
Over the past week, our team has been working to get 27,000 pounds of food including 18,000 pounds of fresh vegetables, 1,800 pounds of bread and staples and 5,700 pounds of ready prepared food into the hands of people who need it most. (2/4) pic.twitter.com/Ev45ubnuOq
— Scotiabank Arena (@ScotiabankArena) March 23, 2020
The NBA and WNBA are also leading by example and pledging funds in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The league’s owners, players, and teams have all come together in this time of uncertainty and have set the bar for taking care of their own. Collectively the players and teams of the NBA and WNBA have raised approximately $50 million in COVID-19 related efforts.
In addition, the NBA and the Player’s Association have created a Solidarity Response Fund. The fund was created with $1 million and currently has $35 million in donations. The money raised in the solidarity fund will be divided between the World Health Organization, the Crisis Text Line, and direct relief and a few other organizations as well.
The coronavirus has changed our way of life; in all aspects. The sporting events that brought not only entertainment but a distraction from reality have come to a halt. In large cities across the world, all activities have also come to a halt. Famous landmarks are closed, travel severely restricted, and industries turned upside down with economic uncertainty.
In the midst of so much turmoil, uncertainty, and chaos, the NBA is stepping up to the challenge presented to them. The generosity of the NBA, the owners, players, and teams will bring much-needed relief to thousands of displaced workers, and at the same time will bring reassurance and hope.
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