Last week, the NHL and NBA — along with nearly every other sports league in north America — suspended their seasons in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a result, the sports world is at an unprecedented standstill.
Thanks to a couple of positive tests by NBA players, the leagues were forced to act quickly in order to limit the exposure of their teams, employees and fans. Games were cancelled immediately and the future of the seasons were put into question. Hopefully the precautions taken lead to good news, but as of now, we have no idea whether or not the NBA and NHL will be back before the fall.
While all NHL and NBA players are being paid for the games that have been postponed (or cancelled), many other people who rely on the leagues to make a living aren’t. In many cases, arena staff who were set to work those games will not be getting another paycheck until the leagues resume.
Without warning, hundreds of people in every city had their livelihood put on hold, and unlike professional athletes, most can’t handle the uncertainty.
Many NHL and NBA teams have committed to paying their employees . In some cases, players have been forced to take initiative and pledge their own money to help. Sergei Bobrovsky and Zion Williamson were two of the first to step up and both are helping out in a big way.
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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.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as giving. There are still many ownership groups that are refusing to pay their arena employees — Kroenke Sports & Entertainment being one of them. The ownership group behind the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets have so far been silent on the topic.
With the leagues shutting down as quickly as they did, many part-time employees were caught completely off guard. Ushers, concession servers, security guards, retail workers, these are all people who are essential to the fan experience at the Pepsi Center. Now, many of them are facing financial hardship thanks to the fact that they won’t be working for the foreseeable future.
Some people can get by for a while if their income is suddenly put on hold — man cannot. These Pepsi Center employees have childcare bills, mortgages, insurance payments and monthly expenses that they now have no way of paying.
The Kroenke family is worth upwards of $10 billion. They have the ability to pay these employees without noticing the money is gone. A small pledge from KSE would make a world of difference to the lives of hundreds of their employees. To resist doing so is flat out unconscionable.
Some teams are leased tenants in buildings owned by other companies — this makes paying the part-time employees more complicated. KSE not only owns the Nuggets and the Avalanche, but they also own the Pepsi Center, so they don’t have that excuse. There is no reason they can’t keep paying the Pepsi Center employees for the games they were supposed to be working.
KSE has been completely silent on the issue. As of Friday evening, Pepsi Center workers have had no communication from their employer. There is absolutely no plan in place, leading to more uncertainty and worry for many families around the Denver area.
Hopefully KSE comes to its senses and announce a payment plan for their part-time employees soon. But until then, fans should put pressure on the team and ownership group to do the right thing.
Despite many of their peers stepping up to help out their employees in a time of need, there are still a number of NHL owners who are unwilling to pay arena staff. Here is a complete list of those who have yet to pledge their help:
Arizona Coyotes – Alex Meruelo
Boston Bruins – Jeremy Jacobs
Buffalo Sabres – Terrence Pegula
Calgary Flames – N. Murray Edwards
Carolina Hurricanes – Tom Dundon
Chicago Blackhawks – Rocky Wirtz
Colorado Avalanche – The Kroenke Family
Columbus Blue Jackets – John P. McConnell
Edmonton Oilers – Daryl Katz
Minnesota Wild – Craig Leipold
Montreal Canadiens – Geoff Molson
New York Islanders – Scott D. Malkin
New York Rangers – James L. Dolan
Ottawa Senators – Eugene Melnyk
St. Louis Blues – Tom Stillman
Vancouver Canucks – Francesco Aquilini
Vegas Golden Knights – Bill Foley
Winnipeg Jets – Mark Chipman
UPDATE: many of the above ownership groups have given an update on how they are working to help the arena employees