NBA, NHL athletes step up to pledge assistance for idled arena workers

Giannis Antetokounmpo

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - NBA players Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson are among a growing list of athletes and teams pledging to provide financial assistance to stadium workers who will suffer wage losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo announced he would give $100,000 to workers at the Milwaukee Bucks Fiserv Forum and Williamson has promised to cover the salaries of all employees at the Smoothie King Center for the next month.

“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,” Williamson said.

The hourly wage workers will take a big hit from the shut-down of the NBA and NHL, along with cancellations of concerts as public health officials caution that large gatherings can hasten the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s bigger than basketball!” Antetokounmpo tweeted. “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!”

The 19-year-old Williamson’s salary pledge coincides with the NBA’s planned regular season hiatus in response to the outbreak.

“Many of them are still recovering from long-term challenges created by (Hurricane) Katrina, and now face the economic impact of the postponement of games because of the virus,” Williamson said.

Friday’s moves come a day after Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love committed $100,000 to the team’s arena workers and support staff. Love is expected to get some help from the team.

“I hope that during this time of crisis, others will join me in supporting our communities,” Love said, adding that moral support was just as important as financial in such a time of tension.

The Golden State Warriors announced that their owners and players are donating $1 million to a disaster-relief fund that will aid the more than 1,000 part-time Chase Center workers.

“As players, we wanted to do something, along with our ownership and coaches, to help ease the pain during this time,” said Warriors star Stephen Curry.

On the hockey side, the Pittsburgh Penguins players have started a fund to pay “full and part-time arena/service employees who would otherwise lose income on regular season games due to the pause in the NHL season.”

The Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs have also pledged assistance.

Detroit-based Ilitch Companies, which owns the baseball Detroit Tigers, hockey’s Detroit Red Wings and Little Caesars Arena announced the establishment of a $1 million fund to cover workers salaries for a month. NBA player Blake Griffin, who plays for the Detroit Pistons, is chipping in $100,000 for the arena workers.

Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller has vowed to help out financially.

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks said the team is making arrangements with American Airlines Arena and other corporate partners “to ensure that scheduled event staff will receive payment for the six home games that were to take place during the 30-day NBA hiatus.”

Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler and the Philadelphia 76ers also said they were looking into ways to assist their arena associates idled by the shut down.