By Ken Reed

Nobody has been hit harder by all the sporting event cancellations caused by Covid-19 than low-wage workers at stadiums and arenas across the country.

Some pro sports owners have recognized this and are coming to the assistance of these workers.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been leading the way in this area. When NBA games were cancelled, he quickly made a commitment to support all the arena workers inside American Airlines Center, home of the Mavericks.

“I reached out to the folks at the arena and our folks at the Mavs to find out what it would cost to support, financially support, people who aren’t going to be able to come to work. They get paid by the hour, and this was their source of income.”

Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler also said his organization will take care of its part-time workers.

MLB owners pledged $1 million each to support ballpark workers impacted by the shutdown.

On the other side of the coin are owners who not only aren’t financially helping their low-wage workers, they are actually cutting salaries and/or laying off workers. Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who’s reportedly worth $3.3 billion according to Forbes, announced employee cuts after “difficult and painful deliberations.” Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has reportedly laid off 40,000 employees at his businesses. Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris was planning to cut employee salaries by 20%. However, after a public outcry he stopped those plans.

The employees most impacted by these decisions are often those who are literally surviving paycheck to paycheck. And if they miss a single check something has to give, whether it’s the rent, mortgage payment, groceries, or medicine for a family member.

Undoubtedly, these super-wealthy owners are going to feel some financial discomfort during this pandemic, but it’s all relative. Their basics — food, shelter and medicine — are covered. Their lifestyles won’t be significantly impacted. That’s not the case for their low-wage workers.

As Nancy Armour of USA Today pointed out recently, the general public in one way or the other has helped these owners thrive financially through the years, whether it be through publicly-financed stadiums, free or cheap public land to build their sports palaces on, huge tax breaks, or just police officers directing traffic on game days.

Jacobs, for instance, built his team’s TD Garden on public land. Fertitta gets to have his team play in an arena, the Toyota Center, built with public money.

Bottom line, these pro sports owners — who have benefitted so greatly from public tax dollars — have an ethical obligation to be better community citizens.

As Armour so adroitly puts it, “Workers aren’t looking for a handout like their billionaire bosses have gotten. Just a helping hand.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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