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March 30, 2020

Sixers ownership makes Philabundance donation to feed 160,000, donate 10,000 laptops amid COVID-19 outbreak

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Josh-Harris_032420_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers managing partner Josh Harris.

Sixers managing partners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer, in conjunction with the 76ers' Youth Foundation, committed a "six-figure" donation to Philabundance on Monday in a move that will allegedly provide 20,000 boxes of food to feed 160,000 people in the Philadelphia area during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a press release from Philabundance, the executive director of Philabundance offered thanks to Harris and Blitzer for stepping up in a time of great need for people in the surrounding area.

“This amazing show of support from the 76ers and its leadership will go a long way to helping us continue to purchase food and distribute it to our network of partners to help feed those in need,” said Philabundance Executive Director, Glenn Bergman. “We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Sixers Youth Foundation, Josh Harris and David Blitzer and thank them for being leaders in our community when we need them most.”

Later Monday afternoon, another donation from the ownership group was made public during a COVID-19 update presser from the city of Philadelphia. Harris and Blitzer will provide a seven-figure donation to fund the purchase of 10,000 Chromebook laptops for students in the Philadelphia School District. Harris and Blitzer's donation follows a vote from the District's Board of Education to authorize using up to $11 million for the purchase of new computers, a number that will fall based on contributions from outside sources.

"We are ecstatic to learn that the Sixers are helping our students get computers in their homes so they can continue to learn during what is an unprecedented time for all of hus, " Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said in a statement. "Our hometown team has come through in such an amazing way proving that they are the true MVPs. I know I speak for our students, families, and staff when I thank them for their generosity."

Starting last Friday, Philadelphia's Ben Simmons began promoting The Philly Pledge, a charitable effort focused on providing money to PHL COVID-19, a local group providing assistance to those most impacted by the spread of coronavirus, in addition to Philabundance. Local athletes including Claude Giroux, Rhys Hoskins, Zach Ertz, Tobias Harris, and more committed publicly to joining the Simmons-led effort over the weekend.

Ownership's additional commitment to Philabundance comes one week to the day following the ownership group's now-reversed decision to reduce salaries by up to 20 percent for all at-will employees making $50,000 or more for the Sixers and Devils, along with requests for their contracted employees to do the same. 

Following immense public pressure and a public show of support from star center Joel Embiid — who pledged $500,000 of his own to help in COVID-19 relief as well as his backing of impacted employees — the Sixers reversed course on their previous decision and pledged to keep things the way they are for the time being.

"Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation. As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits -- and keeping our 1500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season," Harris said in a statement. "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 Sixers were one of the earliest teams in the NBA to make a commitment to look out for their arena workers, saying they would be, "committed to assisting our arena associates through this period" in a team statement released on March 12th.  That comes with a caveat — they do not own their own arena, and many workers at Wells Fargo Center are staffed by the likes of Aramark, which has yet to commit to taking care of impacted employees during the work stoppage.

Over the weekend, Sixers limited partner and Fanatics owner Michael Rubin announced that he would be converting a local company factory that produces Major League Baseball gear into a production line for mask and gown supplies for medical professionals.


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