Pelicans’ Zion Williamson pledges to pay salaries of Smoothie King Center employees

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(CBS News ) — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, impacting the physical and financial well-being of people around the world, many others are stepping up to help those in need. Most recently, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has announced that he will pay the salaries of all of the employees of Smoothie King Center, the home arena of his NBA team, after the NBA suspended the season for at least 30 days.

In a post on Instagram, Williamson said “some of the most special people I have met are those who work at smoothie King Center.” He also said they have been “incredibly welcoming and supportive” since he was drafted in June 2019.

“These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organization. Unfortunately, many of them are still recovering from long term challenges created by Katrina, and now face the economic impact of the postponement of games because of the virus,” he wrote. “My mother has always set an example for me about being respectful for others and being grateful for what we have, and so today I am pledging to cover the salaries for all of those Smoothie King Center workers for the next 30 days.”

Williamson said that the gesture is “a small way” for him to show his support and appreciation for the employees, and that he hopes it will help relieve some “stress and hardship caused by this national health crisis.”

According to Sports Illustrated, Williamson is making just under $10 million for the NBA season.

“This is an incredibly resilient city full of some of the most resilient people,” he wrote, “but sometimes providing a little extra assistance can make things a little easier for the community.”

More than 1,800 people died, most of them low-income African Americans in Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. More than 134,000 New Orleans homes and apartments were destroyed in the Category 5 hurricane, according to the Associated Press

In a statement, the New Orleans Pelicans said they thank and applaud Williamson for his “generous giving.” They also said they are working with management at ASM New Orleans, the center’s management company, to determine what the team can do do to further assist employees. 

“While it is a bit more complicated being that the Pelicans are simply the tenant of the building, the giving and helping this community in a time of need by Mrs. Benson and her organizations is unquestioned,” the Pelicans said, referencing team owner Gayle Benson. “When people need help, there is NEVER a question of who will be there.” 

Williamson isn’t alone. Earlier this week, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love donated $100,000 to help workers at his team’s home arena, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has also said he plans to “financially support” hourly arena workers.

First published on March 13, 2020 / 10:34 PM

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