Not long after NBA commissioner Adam Silver decided to hit pause on the league for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus concerns, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he would make sure game-day employees were taken care of financially.
In the days since, professional athletes, many of whom are often told to “stick to sports,” have donated money from their own pockets to help those same type of hourly wage workers, or they’ve donated money for meals to make sure children in the cities they play in are able to eat despite not going to school. For far too many children, school is the one place they know they’ll be able to get a meal each day.
With the pace of news, each day feels far longer and things that happened less than two weeks ago seem like they happened months ago.
But while many in the sports world have offered to go above and beyond to help their fellow citizens, the Jacobs family was largely silent.
Helmed by 80-year-old patriarch Jeremy Jacobs, the Jacobs family owns two Boston icons: the Boston Bruins and their home, TD Garden. Jeremy Jacobs has owned the “Original Six” Bruins for well over 40 years, and the beloved team he bought for $10 million in 1975 is now valued at $1 billion.
That’s a nice return.
The family also owns and operates Delaware North, the company responsible for food services in over 40 American sports stadiums and arenas. That includes, of course, TD Garden.
Delaware North is valued at $3.2 billion. Jeremy Jacobs’ personal net worth is about the same.
And yet it took until Saturday, after the 30 other NHL teams had promised aid to in-stadium workers who will be profoundly impacted by their loss of income, after the Massachusetts attorney general had pleaded with them — twice! — for them to step up and do the absolute least.
On Saturday morning, the Garden’s Twitter feed posted this:
“The Jacobs Family has established a $1.5 million fund for the Boston Bruins and TD Garden part-time gameday associates who will be financially burdened if the six remaining regular season Bruins games are not played. We thank our associates for their patience and understanding while we worked through the complexity of this unprecedented situation.”
Read that statement carefully and note the word “if.” It’s not often a two-letter word does so much.
If the last six regular-season games aren’t played? If? That decision could be weeks away, and the majority of those workers are hurting now; last week the Massachusetts system that handles unemployment claims was swamped with an “unprecedented” number of calls.
In-arena game-day employees are the face of your experience at the Garden, from the ticket scanners to those pouring your (massively overpriced) beer to those taking care of you in a hospitality suite. Even if the Bruins or the Garden’s other major tenant, the Boston Celtics, win their game the night you visit, poor service from an arena worker can sully your experience.
Notice as well that there’s no mention of those same workers who also keep the arena humming for Celtics games, of which there are nine home contests still unplayed.
The Bruins’ announcement did little to assuage the frustrations of those Garden employees.
“I just am so embarrassed about this because I didn’t even find out from [Delaware North], I found out through a text group from work,” a Garden employee told the Boston Herald. “Most of us work at TD Garden full time, which means every concert, every Celtics game, and every Bruins game, and it’s embarrassing that we might get paid for only six events if and only if they get canceled.”
Where are the Celtics in this? Wyc Grousbeck and the rest of the team’s ownership group were quick to say that they would take care of their game-day staff, but so far have said nothing about Garden employees. They’re tenants, but there’s seemingly no reason they can’t offer to help pay the employees who staff the Garden for their games, as the Los Angeles Kings, Lakers and Clippers are doing for staff at the Staples Center.
It’s wonderful that a 13-year-old Bruins fan and his family started a GoFundMe for those arena employees, a fund that Bruins players have contributed to, but it’s also shameful that they felt they needed to do so after the Jacobses and Celtics ownership didn’t step up right away.
For six-plus months out of the year, Bruins and Celtics fans pour into the Garden. Many are season-ticket holders, some can only afford one or two games a year. Many more may make their first pilgrimage to the arena, their Christmas stocking containing a dream gift, their family maybe setting aside money for weeks or months to make it happen.
Those fans have supported the Bruins and Celtics for generations.
Those fans deserve better than ownership groups that would not step up in an unprecedented time to help those that do their best to make sure every Garden event runs smoothly.
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