How an NBA Organization, and Arena is Affected When the Season is Suspended

Farbod Esnaashari

On March 11, 2020, the NBA shocked the entire world by suspending its season.

In that moment, time stood completely still. It became a ripple effect that catalyzed all other major sports to suspend their operations as well. Within minutes, the Coronavirus suddenly became a real and major threat to American citizens.

NBA players were told to get themselves tested, remain self isolated, and stay home. They won't be playing basketball for the foreseeable future, but for the most part, their livelihoods are intact. But what happens to everyone else - the employees who work for an organization, or the part-time arena staff that work each game? There's far more to an NBA season getting suspended, than just no basketball on the court.

The Initial Scare at Shutdown

"We had a meeting before we left work, saying this could be a possibility, so be prepared for it," said one full-time Clippers employee. "After we got home, we heard about Rudy Gobert. I got an email saying to come into work tomorrow to figure it out."

Before the Gobert incident, people within the Clipper organization were under the assumption that business would be as usual. There was a looming thought that things would change, but as one employee said, "literally everyone was thinking the season wouldn't stop."

One of the scarier parts for any organization is what happens to all of their part-time staff that only work game days. "We literally knew nothing, that's the scary part," said one part-time Clipper employee. "The full time staff is covered, but we aren’t. I had so much lined up, and now I have no work."

Perhaps the biggest question mark will always be what happens to the arena staff during a shutdown, especially for a venue like Staples Center. The LA arena has the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, and Sparks playing inside of it; the arena and the teams aren't operated by the same owner like other venues.

"Before the Gobert thing, we had no idea what was going to happen," said one Staples Center employee. "We knew things weren’t going to be the same. We just didn’t know what was actually going to take place, as far as everyone coming into work like usual."

Fortunately for everyone in the Clipper organization, their fears were met with the security they desperately wanted, the next day.

The Day After Shutdown

Every full-time Clipper employee will continue to be paid, with the ability to work remotely. Every single employee who didn't have a laptop was provided with one as well.

"Luckily, I will get paid for my work at home," said one full-time Clipper employee. "They gave us laptops, and everything to do our work. Everything is going to be the same. Keep working, and see what happens in the future games like the playoffs."

The organization went one step above for the sales team that already sold tickets to games. There was a legitimate concern they wouldn't keep the commission earned from selling games, but those fears were quickly subsided.

"They’re going to pay us for all the commission for everything we sold," said one full-time Clipper employee. "At least for the games that are being cancelled right now, if I’ve already gotten paid on it, they’re going to pay us out for them. They’ve been really good about that."

Despite that level of security, every full-time employee is still concerned about when things will return to normal. There was an extraordinary opportunity to make money during this Clipper season, both in the regular season, and the playoffs.

"Not knowing when things will go back to normal worries me," said a full-time Clipper employee. "I’m worried about next season, and how hot of a season this season was. If this doesn’t go down well, or if basketball isn’t necessary, that’s what I’m worried about."

Even the part-time Clipper employees, who were terrified of the future, learned that they'll be getting paid for all of their missed games. They'll be receiving compensation for all of their previously scheduled opportunities.

The scariest and saddest part of the entire NBA shutdown, is what happens to the arena staff. At the moment I started writing this article, Staples Center staff still have no idea if they're going to be paid.

"Every worker is just mainly concerned with getting paid," one Staples Center employee said. "Everyone is in a panic right now. We're wondering if we're getting paid, what we have to do next, if we need to call unemployment. We haven’t heard anything about getting paid."

In what may be a statement that summarizes part-time hourly workers across America, most Staples Center employees are more concerned about losing income, than they are about the actual Coronavirus that caused the suspension.

"We're concerned about the Coronavirus and the spread of it, but the main concern is that we’re out of work," said a Staples Center employee. "We don’t know what we’re going to do now. Everyone is freaking out about that."

Staples Center employees were given the option to call HR for additional questions, but the biggest thing they know is that they're off work right now, until further notice.

As time goes on, there's a very good likelihood that the part-time Staples Center staff will get paid for their cancelled appearances. Both Dan Gilbert and Mark Cuban have already offered to pay for their arena workers' compensations. However, the scary reality is that all arena employees will have the biggest unknown leading up to that moment. They have to wait the longest to figure out that uncertainty. It's safe to assume that's the same situation for most arena workers across the entire country.

Fortunately for Staples Center staff, there is a plan from all tenants to ensure that all employees get paid. The Clippers, Lakers, Kings, and AEG are finalizing a plan to make sure that Staples Center employees are taken care of.

When an NBA season gets suspended, there's far more that happens than just no games being broadcast on TV. There are fears and worries of regular employees when an extraordinary situation like this happens. These are people making the same salary as most of the fans watching the games. It's easy to forget about the work it takes to make an NBA game look as spectacular as it does, but hopefully this serves as a reminder to never forget about the little guys who make up the big show.

Comments (1)
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Garrett Chorpenning
Garrett Chorpenning


This whole situation is crazy. Props to the Clippers for stepping up.