Philadephia 76ers owner Josh Harris is changing course on his decision to reduce staff pay by 20 percent amid the coronavirus outbreak that forced the NBA to suspend its season. Team employees will be paid in full throughout this pandemic.
The decision by Harris was met with considerable backlash by fans and media, but also 76ers part-owner Michael Rubin, who was reportedly “upset and outraged” about the cuts, according to Shams Charania of Stadium. Only a day after announcing the cuts, Harris released a second statement through ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, explaining that his staff and players had convinced him he’d made the wrong decision.
“Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation. As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20 percent pay cut for preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be playing these employees their full salaries. This is￼￼ an extraordinary time in our world — unlike any most of us have ever lived through before — and ordinary business decisions are not enough to meet the moment. To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting this wrong.￼”
The cuts would have included everyone from coaches and front office executives to support staff such as the marketing and sales departments, and would have spanned both the 76ers and the Harris-owned New Jersey Devils. Although the Sixers have reversed course, the NHL is temporarily cutting salaries of league employees by 25 percent as the coronavirus outbreak continues, according to Emily Kaplan of ESPN.
We can’t pinpoint what exactly caused the charge against this policy, but we do know that 76ers big man Joel Embiid planned to donate an undetermined amount of money to those impacted by the pay cut, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. This would have come in addition to the $500,000 donation he is making to help fight COVID-19.
While at-will employees would have been forced to take the cuts, salaried personnel would have needed to volunteer. Some, such as top executives Elton Brand and Scott O’Neil, had already agreed to do so according to Marc Stein of The New York Times. Others were apprehensive given the uncertainty surrounding the league at this point, according to Wojnarowski.
It should be noted that players were not involved in this potential pay cut. The explanation for why is simple: They have a union, and that union will likely negotiate some sort of financial settlement with the NBA that deals with all of the fallout of this pandemic. Teams do not have the right to unilaterally enforce pay cuts on their players. In this case, the Sixers drew so much criticism with their team employees that they were forced to change course, likely sending a message to the rest of the NBA that shifting the economic burden of this pandemic off of billionaires and onto the middle class is just not going to be possible.