As COVID-19 continues to roll through America and the world, nearly every organization is weighing whether to cancel major events. Aside from the NFL, which won’t have its debut for many months, nearly every major American sports league has suspended its season or delayed its start, all in the name of preventing the coronavirus from spreading more quickly.
There are innumerable impacts associated with those shutdowns and delays, of course, and most of those extend well beyond the owners and athletes in each sport. There are a ton of employees who work pretty invisibly behind the scenes to support those sports, and many of them are paid hourly wages. In the NBA, a couple of owners (notably, Hawks owner Tony Ressler among them) are paying those employees through the suspended season, but on most teams athletes have been stepping in and pledging to do that good work.
I hope it’s not controversial to say that billionaires should be handling that instead of millionaires who do not actually own the teams, but I also have a lot of respect for guys like Zion Williamson and Kevin Love for trying to be good people and help out in an very isolating crisis.
Fortunately, Arthur Blank is one of the team owners leading by example in this regard, as he’s now committed to paying hourly employees for the Falcons, Atlanta United, and more generally at Mercedes-Benz Stadium through stoppages and shutdowns.
Per Rich McKay, who said the final plan for handling how everyone will be paid is in the works and should be available shortly:
“We’ve tried to over-communicate at a time where there’s no question people have personal angst and anxiety,” McKay said. “You’ve got to be empathetic towards it because it’s real.”
We’d all very much like to be solely talking about the Falcons season—especially since it’s such a pivotal one and there’s so much offseason ahead of us—but in the midst of a pandemic much changes. Sports are an escape from the grind of the world for many of us, but for others it’s a career or, at the very least, a paying gig. Kudos to the Falcons for taking care of their own, and we’ll hope that prudent prevention stateside (TBD) and employers doing the right thing for their employees (also mostly TBD) translates into the Falcons starting their season on time in 2020.