More so than players or fans, perhaps the people most greatly affected by the NBA’s suspension due to the spread of coronavirus are the arena workers that will be out of work for a minimum of 30 days.
Even though a few team owners have stepped up to make a commitment to these workers, many have not, leading to players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson to make statements of their own.
Antetokounmpo, Kevin Love, and Blake Griffin have all pledged $100,000 to help arena workers affected by the hiatus with Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry being the only one of those three team’s owners pledging to match their players’ donation. Williamson, on the other hand, is committing to singlehandedly cover all arena employees at the Smoothie King Center for the next 30 days.
Love was the first player to do this, saying that pandemics like this are beyond just a health crisis as they affect every aspect of daily life, via Instagram:
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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.
Griffin very quickly followed suit, pledging to match Love’s donation to workers at Little Caesars Arena, via Twitter:
back at you. just following suit https://t.co/eQHrdodond
— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin23) March 13, 2020
Antetokounmpo came next, saying this is a bigger than basketball situation by donating $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum employees, via Twitter:
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
Finally, Williamson chimed in with the grandest gesture of all, referencing the plight of workers at Smoothie King Center who are still not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina and the resilience of the city, via Instagram:
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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.
All four of these players have made a great sacrifice in this situation, recognizing they have more than enough money to get through this crisis. Meanwhile, those who work at every event at those arenas may not have the means to go 30 days without a paycheck.
While it is slightly disappointing to see owners of these teams not step up, there is a silver lining with the players doing whatever they can. Perhaps more players and teams will continue this trend over the next 30 days.