Ryen Russillo appeared on Monday's edition of The Bill Simmons Podcast. Simmons and Russillo had a free-flowing conversation that occasionally touched on mature subjects, including coronavirus. While discussing the suspension of the NBA season, Russillo addressed a message to media members on Twitter. Specifically, people giving billionaire owners crap for not responding quickly to the season possibly being lost. You can listen at the 32:32 mark of this video.
It was clearly something that had been annoying Russillo, who had tweeted about it a few days prior. He mades some salient points about owners needing time to put together plans, but on the other hand, no.
Mark Cuban did not have to think about it. On national television, moments after learning the season had been suspended, Cuban said that employees would be taken care of. That is all any owner had to do. You don't need to work out the exact plan, even if you should have been planning for this eventuality. The league was going to get teams together the next day to discuss playing games without fans. The public knew that a player testing positive meant the season would be suspended so the owners should have. Every single one of those guys should have been thinking about the possibility that this could happen. And no one was asking for specifics. Just some reassurance.
These are billionaires. This is a drop in the bucket. Pocket change. Money lost in their couch cushions. Zion Williamson, a 19-year old who does not yet own a team or have a billion dollars, probably did not have a perfectly constructed plan to get the proper amount money to every usher, peanut vendor and locker room attendant when he pledged $100,000 to help them through what looks like an unprecedented moment in American history. It is unclear how many business classes Zion took in his semester at Duke. Presumably fewer than most owners of professional sports teams.
Without the players stepping up and the subsequent immediate public pressure, who knows how long some of these billionaires might have dragged this out? As of last night the Boston Bruins and owner Jeremy Jacobs have been silent. The only reassurance employees have received is from Brad Marchand, who tweeted a GoFundMe which has so far raised $33,000. Jacobs is worth $3.6 billion. He doesn't need to give people worried about paying rent in a couple weeks a PowerPoint presentation, but a sign of life would be nice.
It's probably unfair that not even a week later we haven't given Jacobs the benefit of the doubt, and maybe he's putting together a plan so detailed and perfect that nobody involved in the Bruins has to worry about anything during the coming months of uncertainty. Maybe those people have no reason to be concerned right now. But you know what we definitely don't need to be concerned with right now? The feelings of billionaires.
Things currently look bad and all indications are that they will get worse before they improve. Not everyone is going to be OK or even survive. The people who work at stadiums and arenas around the country need that money and it's not exactly the best time to go looking for another job. Team owners have a chance to help these people and it will probably come with some sort of eventual tax break. And it's the simplest show of goodwill possible. If the public didn't think most owners needed to be shamed into doing the right thing, they wouldn't. But some of them do. You don't even have to look past Boston.