76ers, Devils Reverse Course, Will Pay Employees Full Salaries After Backlash

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2020

CAMDEN, NJ - JULY 12: Philadelphia 76ers Owner, Josh Harris speaks during a press conference on July 12, 2019 at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils are reversing course and not forcing at-will employees to take a 20 percent reduction in their salaries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Josh Harris—the founder of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, which owns both teams—issued a statement Tuesday through the 76ers:

"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% pay cut while preserving everyone's full benefits -- and keeping our 1500 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 paying 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 Devils also issued a statement announcing the decision.

Sixers ownership had taken a deluge of public criticism since announcing all at-will employees—those not under guaranteed contracts—would have to take a non-negotiable 20 percent pay cut to combat revenue losses caused by the hiatus of games during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sixers were the first team in major professional sports to announce such a cutback in salaries. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported other NBA teams were monitoring the reaction to the Sixers as they consider similar maneuvers. Given the Sixers' quick reversal of course, it seems unlikely that any other team will attempt to cut employee salaries.

While no players spoke out against Harris, 76ers center Joel Embiid pledged $500,000 toward helping those workers Tuesday—furthering the public relations backlash. Wojnarowski also reported members of the Sixers coaching staff and front office, who are under contract, were asked to "volunteer" 20 percent of their salaries.

"In these trying times, I'm proud of the Sixers organization for reversing course and 'doing a 180.' Let's focus on beating this Coronavirus now. Let's be responsible and Trust the Process!!" Embiid said in a tweet.

Harris has an estimated net worth of $3.9 billion. His ownership group purchased the Sixers for $290 million in 2011; the franchise is now worth an estimated $2 billion.

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