Truncated season lead owners to cut salaries. And then reverse course.
Josh Harris managed to end up looking tone deaf which isn’t easy to do despite doing the right thing and correcting a big mistake.
Harris, the 76ers’ managing partner, bowed to intense criticism on social media and elsewhere Tuesday afternoon and rescinded the salary cuts of up to 20 percent that would’ve affected Sixers and New Jersey Devils employees from April 15 through the end of the NBA and NHL seasons. Marc Stein of the New York Times first reported the proposed cuts Monday night.
“…We asked our salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid through the regular season,” said Harris in a statement. “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.”
Perhaps it would have made more sense to check with the staff and players beforehand to avoid a PR nightmare like this.
Meanwhile, it appears one of those players, Sixers star center Joel Embiid, contributed to Harris’ flip-flop. Earlier Tuesday, Shams Charania from The Athletic reported Embiid would be donating $500,000 to coronavirus health and medical relief. Embiid was also planning to give an undetermined amount toward team employees whose salaries would’ve been reduced.
Embiid is a well-paid professional athlete. He’s earning $27.5 million in the second year of a five-year, $147.8 million contract.
Harris and co-managing partner/minority owner David Blitzer are billionaires who also own the Devils.
It’s difficult to shake the perception that they care more about making money than helping employees make it from paycheck to paycheck in a difficult situation.
“This is an extraordinary time in our world — unlike any many of us have ever lived through before — and ordinary business decisions are not enough to meet the moment,” Harris said in the statement. “To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting it wrong.”
There were rumblings that some of the team’s minority owners were upset by the cuts. If that’s true, somebody should have offered to cover the amount of the salaries that would’ve been cut instead of staying silent.
Knowing something is wrong and doing nothing about it is worse than not realizing what’s going on in the first place.
Embiid tweeted a response to Harris’ statement in which he said, “I’m proud of the Sixers organization for reversing course.”
While that’s nice, it never should have come to this.
Covering the proposed salary reductions amount to an insignificant amount when you’re worth $3.7 billion and $1.3 billion, as Harris and Blitzer reportedly are.
Maybe Harris and Blitzer should talk to billionaire Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who spoke about what he was going to do for the team’s employees immediately after the March 11 announcement that the NBA season was on hold indefinitely.
Cuban showed that he cares. Those are important traits in a boss from a workers’ perspective. Yes, he’s in charge, but it’s apparent that he gets what regular employees are going through.
Sound business decisions explain how Harris, a leveraged buyout specialist, and Blitzer, a private equity executive, amassed their billions. But sometimes situations call for a little more compassion and a little less concern for the bottom line.
If Harris and Blitzer didn’t realize it before, they should certainly know it now.
Tom Moore: email@example.com; @TomMoorePhilly