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NBA stars pledge money to support arena workers during coronavirus shutdown

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson applauds his teammates’ efforts while sidelined by injury this season.
Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson
(Matthew Hinton / Associated Press)

From NBA veterans to its most exciting rookie, players around the league are using their wealth and profile to try to help arena workers affected by the coronavirus.

The No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 draft, Zion Williamson, has lived up to the hype in his first 19 games, averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while making almost 59% of his shots.

He did something Friday to justify his star status.

“My mother has always set an example for me about being respectful for others and being grateful for what we have, and so today I am pledging to cover the salaries for all of those Smoothie King Center workers for the next 30 days,” Williamson wrote on Instagram. “This is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates and hopefully we can all join together to relieve some of the stress and hardship caused by this national health crisis.”

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His donation was one of a handful of pledges made by NBA stars to help ease the financial burden on the ushers, security personnel, vendors and maintenance workers affected by pro sports closing its doors during the COVID-19 crisis.

Cleveland forward Kevin Love was the first high-profile NBA star to promise aid, with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo following his lead on Friday, donating $100,000 to help staff at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

“Love This!!!” Love tweeted after Antetokounmpo’s announcement. “Take care of the people who take care of you!!!”

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Former Clipper Blake Griffin made the same pledge to the staff at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.

“Well done BG,” Love tweeted. “Big time.”

Love, who has publicly shared his battles with anxiety, shared tips for coping with the uncertainty related to COVID-19 and the rapidly changing situation from Dr. Michelle Craske of UCLA on his Instagram on Thursday.

“We are all in this together,” Love posted. “Let’s do our part to help those that need it most, especially if that person is yourself.”

On Wednesday, Anaheim Ducks owners, Henry and Susan Samueli, said they will pay all full-time and part-time employees through the end of March while Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that he was working on a proposal to pay his team’s game-day employees.

The Golden State Warriors ownership group, players and coaches will provide a $1-million relief fund for 1,000 part-time employees who work in food service, security, guest services and maintenance workers.

Stories examining the impact the spread of the coronavirus has had on the NBA, NHL, MLB, the NCAA tournament and the rest of the sports world.
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TRACKER: Professional players who have pledge donations to event staff at arenas and stadiums

-- Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers: The first player to donate money to event staff at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Amount: $100,000.

-- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff

-- Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks: $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff

-- Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons: $100,000 to staff of Little Caesars Arena

-- Zion Williamson: Paying the salaries of Smoothie King Center employees for the next 30 days

-- George Springer, Houston Astros: $100,000 to staff at Minute Maid Park

-- Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians: organized a GoFundMe page where fans could donate to benefit workers throughout the league, kicking in $10,000 on his own and setting a goal of $1 million.

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-- Jeremy Lin, former NBA players: announced that he was donating $150,000 to UNICEF to help fight the coronavirus. Lin also donated the same amount to the China Foundation.

-- Warriors ownership, players and coaches donated $1 million: to provide assistance to those who work at Chase Center

*More than half of NBA teams and a few NHL teams reportedly have said they are finalizing plans to reimburse workers for lost wages. The employees range from ushers, concession vendors and ticket-takers who work for the arenas, to part-time employees like game-night performers. MLB teams have not been as responsive yet, but their regular season won’t begin for at least a month.


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