Coronavirus: NBA players pledge thousands of dollars to cover salaries of employees out of work due to season suspension

NBA players are pledging to pay the salaries of employees working at sports stadiums after the basketball league announced it would be suspending the season for at least 30 days amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

On Friday, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson became the latest NBA star to announce he would be donating thousands of dollars to cover the hourly wages of employees. 

“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 Centre,” the 19-year-old wrote on Instagram. “These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organisation.

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“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.”

Explaining that his mother always taught him to be respectful and grateful for what he has, the basketball star, who is set to make an estimated $44.2m with his four-year contract, said he would be covering “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,” Williamson wrote. 

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Earlier this week, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers announced on Instagram that he would be donating $100,000 through his foundation to help the team’s arena, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, and its staff,  while Pistons’ player Blake Griffin pledged the same to cover the salaries of employees at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. 

“I hope that during this time of crisis, others will join me in supporting our communities,” Love wrote on Instagram, adding: “Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks announced he would be donating $100,000 to Fiserv Forum staff, explaining on Twitter that this is “bigger than basketball”.

“During this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier,” he wrote. 

NBA teams including the Dallas Mavericks have also pledged to do what they can to help staff who have been affected by the suspension of the season, including paying arena employees for all of the home games that would have taken place during the suspension. 

“In light of the postponement of the NBA season, it is of the utmost importance to Dallas Mavericks management and ownership that we do what we can to minimise the adverse financial impact that will be felt by staff who would otherwise be working at our games at American Airlines Center,” the team said in a statement.

The donations from NBA teams and players come after the basketball league announced Wednesday that it would be suspending the season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus. 

As the pandemic continues to spread around the globe, other sports leagues also made the decision to suspend seasons, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS).

In the United States, there are currently 2,340 cases of coronavirus as of Saturday.

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