Hawks owner Tony Ressler walks off the court in the final minute of a 136-131 loss to the New York Knicks in a NBA basketball game after the NBA announce the season was suspended on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton

Hawks will take care of employees amid NBA hiatus, owner Tony Ressler says

Long before things escalated, Hawks owner Tony Ressler voiced his intentions. 

If coronavirus ever brought the NBA season to a halt, the Hawks wouldn’t leave their part-time employees high and dry. 

“Candidly, I’m extraordinarily proud to work for someone like Tony, who weeks ago said, ‘If we shut down, we have to take care of our part-time employees,’” Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said. 

Unfortunately, coronavirus has forced just that, with the league suspending play Wednesday night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert first tested positive for the virus, with his teammate Donovan Mitchell testing positive Thursday. 

» More AJC coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

The ramifications of the NBA taking a minimum of a 30-day hiatus stretch far and wide, from immediate to more long-term. From the fear of the virus spreading and more players or staff testing positive, to the disruption of team’s schedules, to fan disappointment with games ending abruptly. An added consequence to consider is all the people employed by teams whose jobs, often part-time or seasonal, are now in jeopardy. 

From the onset, the Hawks planned to take care of both their part-time and full-time employees while the league is in limbo. 

“We have a pretty clear set of priorities in this kind of remarkable time that we’re living through,” Ressler said. “Protecting our fans, protecting our employees, and protecting the reputation of our league, all of which is important, but let there be no confusion, that means taking care of all of our employees, our full-time, our part-time.”

As the situation with coronavirus continues to unfold, it’s impossible to know if NBA games will resume play after 30 days. But the Hawks have two pay periods coming up, and if employees were planning to work or were scheduled to work, they can be expected to be paid for those periods, Koonin said. 

They’re in the process of adding more employees to a text alert, so they can communicate with them regularly about this issue. 

This has become a conversation throughout the league, as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on Wednesday said he planned to put together a program for hourly workers, and the Cavaliers announcing they would pay their hourly and event staff as if every game/event had been played. Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie voiced on Twitter his desire for the Nets to do the same.

For Ressler, the decision was an easy one. 

“This is how, in my opinion, good business should be run,” Ressler said. “We want them to know that we’re committed to them, just as we want them to be committed to us. This is a relatively easy decision, it has been, for our senior staff. ... It seems to most of us it’s just the right thing to do. I don’t think it’s ever been a debate in our shop. Frankly, I’m proud of that. We’re thrilled to do it. We expected to do it.”

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