Joel Embiid is making $27.5 million in the second season of his five-year, $147.7 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. So, his decision to pledge $500,000 to medical relief and Sixers employees facing hardship amid the coronavirus pandemic represents a little less than two percent of his salary.
Considering that Embiid could do absolutely nothing and be totally fine in everyone’s eyes, this is really something. He’s under no obligation to provide anyone with financial support, but sees an opportunity to use his money to do a good thing and help people. That’s great!
There’s a difference between annual salary and net worth, so let’s say that 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris decided to use two-tenths of a percent of his $3.7 billion net worth — rather than the two percent Embid chose — to help people. That would come out to $7.4 million. If he provided two-hundredths of a percent of what he’s worth — the equivalent of $20 to someone with a net worth of $100,000 — Harris still would be giving $740,000.
To put this in further perspective, $740,000 would be a drop in the bucket compared to the $184 million loan that Harris’ company, Apollo Global Management, gave to Kushner Companies after White House meetings in which a possible job for Harris in the Trump administration was discussed.
Harris is not, however, giving anything to anyone to help at this crucial time. Instead, his plan was to cause more distress for people in crisis, along with his fellow billionaire owner of the 76ers and Devils at Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, private equity investor David Blitzer.
Before back tracking on Tuesday, the 76ers and Devils announced a plan under which they would be reducing salaries of some of their employees by 20 percent from mid-April through June, and shifting to four-day work weeks. While these salary cuts only would only apply to employees earning $100,000 or more (a big number, but not far above New Jersey’s median income), that’s a cruel move for billionaires to make, and a move that would hurt workers far more than it will benefit the teams’ bottom line. Would Harris save even $740,000 — that 0.02% of his net worth — as a result of doing this?
Maybe that’s why it was so easy for Harris to reverse course following a wave of backlash.
“Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation,” Harris said in a statement. “As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20 percent pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. 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. 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 Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, announced layoffs of 60 percent of their employees, effective next Monday, although they did set up a $6 million assistance fund for those workers.
So long as people have mortgage payments to make and the possibility of steep medical bills in an uncertain future, what was Harris even thinking in the first place? What does this marginal corporate belt-tightening achieve other than sending a message about who’s in charge while doing disproportionate damage to working people?
We know who’s in charge, and what they’re about. And now we also know that when we say “Trust The Process,” it should mean the player with that nickname, Embiid, and not any kind of corporate organizational philosophy.