One of Minnesota United’s four supporters groups has criticized the team for an e-mail it sent Monday to some of its part-time gameday workers that advised they file for unemployment compensation while the MLS season is suspended and named three corporate partners that are hiring.
On Twitter, the supporters group Red Loons posted, “Sad to report @MNUFC has the WORST response to the COVID-19 crisis in MLS.”
Many NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball teams and some of their biggest stars have pledged to pay or provide financial assistance to arena or stadium workers who are now out of work with pro-sports seasons in the United States and Canada suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
MLS’ Portland Timbers created a fund to help part-time staff. Toronto FC joined with the Blue Jays, Raptors, Maple Leafs and Argonauts to create a Team Toronto fund. Atlanta United FC and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank pledged he’ll pay hourly Atlanta United employees for games missed.
Following the Center for Disease Control recommendations, MLS has suspended its season through at least mid-May. The league said it still intends to play a complete season, which would include the Loons’ 17 scheduled regular-season home games at team-owned Allianz Field.
Reached Wednesday, a Minnesota United spokesperson declined to comment.
The e-mail sent to some of the Loons’ gameday workers — primarily ticket takers and ushers — was the latest of several sent to them updating developments since the league originally announced on March 12 that it would shut down for 30 days. The latest one “encouraged” those employees to file for unemployment benefits for which they now might qualify and provided links to apply for jobs available at corporate partners Cub Foods, PepsiCo and Target, which are hiring.
Stadium security, Delaware North food-service workers and janitorial workers, all of whom are contracted, are not included in that group. The team’s full-time employees remain on the job working from home.
“While many other teams are paying staff the wages they need, United and its billionaire owner have a message for their employees: “uh … we hear Pepsi’s hiring,” said the post from the Red Loons, which calls itself “MNUFC’s left wing.”
Former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire is owner of the Minnesota United franchise that also has Twins owner Jim Pohlad, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Carlson board member Wendy Carlson Nelson among its ownership group.
Among pro teams in Minnesota, the Wild said it will pay those scheduled to work the final six games of the regular season that have been suspended. Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, has pledged a $1 million relief fund for Target Center part-time workers. Also, the Twins said they have committed at least $1 million to compensate their seasonal ballpark employees for canceled games.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love was the first pro sports star to step forth to help, pledging $100,000 to Cleveland Cavaliers arena workers. He’s earning nearly $29 million this season. Of players currently on their roster, Loons midfielder Robin Lod was the highest paid at last season’s end at $952,500 in total compensation. According to the most recent salaries published last September, two players on the Loons’ current roster made less than $100,000.
The Philadelphia 76ers initially asked employees to take a temporary 20-percent pay cut to preserve full benefits for everyone and pay 1,500 hourly workers through the regular season.
Team owner Josh Harris apologized Tuesday.
“After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision,” Harris said in a statement. “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.”