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Nets take care of Barclays Center’s hourly workers

Franchise to pay hourly workers for time lost to coronavirus

March 17, 2020 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Joe Tsai, the billionaire owner of the Brooklyn Nets, the New York Liberty and Downtown’s Barclays Center, may feel the economic effects of the NBA’s recent shutdown due to the region’s growing number of cases of the novel coronavirus.

But the 56-year-old co-founder and executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group knows that there are people working in and around his organization that need immediate financial relief from what is shaping up to be an extended stretch of inactivity for his team and its arena.

“With the aim of helping Barclays Center staff get through this difficult time, we commit to provide relief to hourly employees for the paychecks they would have earned if Brooklyn Nets regular season games and non-Nets events at Barclays Center were to continue as originally scheduled,” read a statement issued over the weekend by Tsai’s group BSE Global.

“The plan will cover the period from now until the end of May unless the events are rescheduled before that,” the release noted. “We will work closely and expeditiously with our partners, including service contractors, event promoters and unions to implement this plan.”

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During a time when all non-salaried employees or freelancers are waiting and wondering when, or if, they will receive some sort of compensation from their current employers, Tsai’s show of goodwill came without any pressure or prompting.

“Hourly employees at Barclays Center are the bedrock of the fan experience in the arena,” the release said.

“Whether it’s a big smile as fans enter the building or keeping the seats clean or making sure the concession stands are stocked with your favorite items, they are on the frontlines to make our fans feel special. They keep the lights on and the house clean, and they are the first ones to arrive and last ones to leave the building.”

Last week’s suspension of the NBA season, which was immediately followed by shutdowns in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and virtually all professional and amateur sporting leagues worldwide, left the Barclays Center dark for the foreseeable future.

While all of us are in a holding pattern, wondering how long and how far these restrictions on public gatherings will continue during the COVID-19 outbreak, Tsai was one of the first to step up and take responsibility for those who have worked so hard to keep his organization running smoothly.

“While all of us are negatively affected by suspension of the NBA season and a state-wide ban on events with 500 people or more, we are especially aware of the difficulties faced by our hourly employees,” the release said.

“When games and events are cancelled or postponed, work stops and so do paychecks.”

The Barclays Center, shut down for sporting events and concerts during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, will still compensate its non-salaried employees until at least the end of May, thanks to Nets owner Joe Tsai. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Tsai, who purchased the Nets for a record $2.5 billion from Mikhail Prokhorov last year, followed the lead of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in compensating his arena staff and other non-salaried employees.

He was also the first among the owners of the tri-state area pro sports franchises to make the move, giving those affected not only by the economic ramifications of the virus one less thing to think about during this turbulent and frightening time.

“It is our goal to alleviate the hit to household cash flow from work stoppage for people impacted so they can pay for necessary expenses such as rent, utilities, food and daily necessities,” the release said.

The Nets, who were in the midst of a likely playoff-bound campaign, haven’t hit the hardwood since beating LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on March 10, the eve of this ongoing stoppage in play for the NBA.

Though Brooklyn players are likely working out, both individually and/or in small groups, at the team’s HSS Training Center in Sunset Park, the Nets aren’t likely to return to play until June at the earliest, if at all for the remainder of the regular season.

That will likely force Tsai to continue paying Barclays Center employess, who would have also been on hand for any concerts or special events at the arena, for the next several months if not longer.

“We want to let our Barclays Center staff know that nobody is left behind and we are in this together,” the release said.

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