76ers, Devils Owners Reverse Course On Pay Cuts After Blowback
At-will workers for the 76ers and Devils "will keep their current salaries" after a "lot of bad publicity" directed at team owners Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, according to Keith Pompey of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The Sixers' and Devils' at-will employees making more than $50,000 were "informed of temporary salary reductions of up to 20%." The reductions were to start on April 15 and "run through June 30." HBSE co-Founder Josh Harris yesterday said it was "clear that was the wrong decision." A source said that not all members of the Sixers ownership group "were consulted by Harris about the cut in pay." The source added that "not all of the owners supported Harris’ decision to cut salaries for employees of the Sixers and Devils." The source also said that minority owner Michael Rubin was "among those taken by surprise and is upset." Rubin on Twitter wrote, "I'm a strong believer when you get something wrong, we must learn from it and fix it! That’s exactly what happened here!! Truly appreciate everyone’s feedback -- it was truly helpful." Harris and co-Founder David Blitzer took "huge PR hits for initially deciding to reduce salaries." They were "crushed on sports talk radio, by the media and on social media" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/25). In New Jersey, Abbey Mastracco notes the move was an "attempt to avoid layoffs." In addition to the 76ers and Devils, HBSE owns Prudential Center, where "all events have been postponed through March" (Bergen RECORD, 3/25).
WRONG READ OF THE ROOM: ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noted the "miscalculation in Philly was that they thought the headline might be Philly owners are not going to have to lay anybody off, they’re going to allow everyone to keep their benefits." Wojnarowski: "In fact, the headline is an owner worth approximately $4 billion is asking his employees to take a pay cut." There were numerous owners across the NBA "who loved the idea that Philadelphia has taken the lead in this” and that Harris was "taking all the hits." Wojnarowski: “There were a lot of sighs of relief in front offices with general managers, with head coaches who really worried about their staff that they were going to be told they had to let people go. They were thrilled when Philly reversed course. ... There’s a belt tightening that is going to have to go on, but no one right now wants to be the first one in on it in the NBA” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 3/24). ESPN Mike Golic said, “You’d love every owner of every business to pay everybody until this ends. ... But for some, it’s not feasible.” ESPN's Mike Golic Jr.: “The Sixers are guilty of trying to do business like you do business in real life and not during what’s going on right now” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 3/25).
COLLECTIVE ACTION: In Philadelphia, David Murphy writes under the header, “Josh Harris’ Sixers Coronavirus Pay-Cut Reversal Shows Power Of Collective Action.” Murphy: "The lesson is one that I can only hope will resonate given the moment at hand. The people who will bear the brunt of the health and economic decisions that are currently being made are the people closest to the ground floor of the economy. They also happen to represent the vast majority of the population." In terms of "gross domestic product, the Sixers’ reversal of course counts as a minuscule win." But for that "midlevel worker in the ticket department, the impact is undoubtedly significant" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/25).