Philadelphia 76ers ownership has reversed course on a plan to reduce certain employees’ salaries, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).
“After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision,” Sixers owner Josh Harris said in a statement to ESPN. “We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salary.”
Full-time Sixers employees who earn at least $50K annually were informed on Monday that their salaries would be temporarily reduced by up to 20 percent as the NBA remains on hiatus, as Marc Stein of The New York Times details. Those employees were told that the new measures would apply to paychecks from April 15 through June 30, with health benefits and 401(k) plans unaffected, says Stein.
Before reversing course, the club confirmed The New York Times’ report in a statement from Scott O’Neil, the CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the group that owns the 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
“To ensure we can continue to support and operate our businesses during these uncertain times without reducing our workforce, we are asking our full-time, salaried employees to temporarily reduce their pay by up to 20 percent and move to a four-day week,” O’Neil said in a statement on Monday.
The measures wouldn’t have affected any players. It also wouldn’t have applied to employees on contracts, including members of the coaching staff or certain front-office executives, Stein notes. Only “at-will” employees would have been required to accept the salary reductions, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter).
However, according to Stein, some additional members of the organization had been asked to participate in the rollbacks as well — Sixers GM Elton Brand was among those who had agreed to take a temporary pay cut. Wojnarowski tweets that coaches and executives whose salaries couldn’t be unilaterally cut were initially given until Thursday to agree to a salary reduction of 20 percent. According to Wojnarowski, many were reluctant to give back that money, particularly since their employment situations beyond this summer are uncertain.
As Wojnarowski noted (via Twitter), other team owners were keeping an eye on the situation in Philadelphia. Those owners were weighing their own desire to save money against the potential PR backlash that such a move would create. Presumably, based on the negative PR the 76ers faced and the quick reversal that followed, no other teams will immediately follow suit.
Sixers part-owner Michael Rubin actually contributed to the PR backlash that helped push the club to change its plans. Shams Charania of Stadium (video link) reports that Rubin wasn’t believed to be part of the decision to reduce employees’ salaries and was said to be “upset” and “outraged” by it.
Meanwhile, before the 76ers’ reversal, star center Joel Embiid announced he’s pledging $500K to COVID-19 medical relief efforts in the community and that he was committed to helping Sixers employees who suffer financial hardship in light of the team’s salary reductions (Twitter link via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN).
With the Sixers no longer planning to reduce employees’ salary, Embiid’s financial commitment beyond that $500K for coronavirus purposes no longer appears necessary.
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Largely considered one of the worst teams in NBA history, the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers finished their season 9-73, which is the lowest win total in an 82-game NBA season.