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Social media reaction forces Devils, 76ers owners to rethink pay cuts

After announcing up to 20 percent pay cuts for full-time employees on Monday, Twitter backlash changes minds.
New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris meets with the media after the firing of Ray Shero before a January game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Newark, N.J. [BENNETT COHEN | ZUMAPRESS.com]

TAMPA — The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the sports industry, postponing and canceling events and games through the summer for most leagues.

On Monday the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers ownership announced it would enact pay cuts (up to 20 percent in some instances) for its full-time employees in addition to cutting the work week to four days.

When the news hit Twitter, outrage followed against Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the entity which controls both clubs. Many were quick to point out owner Josh Harris has a net worth of $3.7 billion.

On Tuesday, the clubs’ owners reversed course, saying “after listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision.”

NBA star Joel Embiid also pledged to donate $500,000 on Tuesday toward coronavirus relief and helping team workers who are temporarily reducing their salary during the pandemic.

The Devils were the first team in the league to come out with pay cuts for employees just before the league itself announced on Tuesday it would temporarily cut league office employees’ pay by 25 percent starting April 1.

The Tampa Bay Times confirmed that the Lightning haven’t made pay cuts nor layoffs to their staff since the NHL season was paused almost two weeks ago.

“We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries,” the Devils said in Tuesday’s statement. “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 Canadiens’ ownership has also cut 60 percent of its staff in light of the pandemic. The staff reduction will begin March 30 and is a temporary move by the club, which has created a $6 million assistance fund in the meantime to help provide insurance benefits for eight weeks. That will ensure employees also receive 80 percent of their base salary during this timeframe.

The club’s executives, including general manager Marc Bergevin, Montreal’s general staff, Claude Julien and the coaching staff, also took 20 percent pay cuts.

"Now more than ever, it is important to support our community and demonstrate our solidarity to one another,” said Groupe CH owner, president and CEO Geoff Molson in Tuesday’s statement. “We are working extremely hard to limit the impact this situation will have on our employees.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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