How N.C.’s professional sports teams are responding to season pauses due to COVID-19

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/19/20

Pretty much every professional sports league in the United States has paused their seasons or cancelled play in response to the spread and potential spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus. That’s left North Carolina’s professional sports teams — the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and NFL’s Carolina Panthers among them — needing to make some decisions.

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How N.C.’s professional sports teams are responding to season pauses due to COVID-19

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Posted

Pretty much every professional sports league in the United States, and many around the world, has paused its season or cancelled play in response to the spread and potential spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus.

That’s left teams having to make decisions about player safety, regular operations and compensating game-day workers for missed time. North Carolina’s professional sports teams — the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and NFL’s Carolina Panthers among them — are left to make similar decisions.

On Tuesday, March 17, the Hurricanes pledged to pay hourly PNC Arena and team event staff wages based on the team’s final seven March regular-season home games. Funding came from Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon and the Carolina Hurricanes Foundation, as well as “a generous donation” from Hurricanes players.

“Our part-time event staff are a vital part of the gameday experience at PNC Arena,” Hurricanes President/GM Don Waddell said in a press release. “We know that the season being paused has created a lot of uncertainty, so Tom, the players and the Foundation have stepped up to help these employees through this unprecedented situation.”

The NHL paused play for teams on March 12 and encouraged players and traveling team staff to self-quarantine for two weeks. The Hurricanes press release stated that “no player, team staff member or arena employee have exhibited any signs of COVID-19 at this time.”

The Hornets have done the same thing as the Hurricanes, establishing a fund designed to give compensation of lost wages to employees slated to work games played at home by the Hornets and Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets’ G League affiliate, as well as postponed events and concerts at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. Hornets part-time staff will be paid through April 13, the originally-scheduled end of the regular season.

“Payments from the fund will assist the more than 500 part-time staff that are employed by HSE [Hornets Sports & Entertainment],” a press release from March 15 said. “These part-time employees serve in various capacities during games and events, including ushers, ticket takers, box office attendants, entertainers, public safety officers, retail staff, guest services personnel, technical operations and more.”

The Panthers have been busy in football-related decisions — giving QB Cam Newton permission to seek a trade, releasing safety Eric Reid and making trades and free-agent signings of their own — but on the operations side, the team has followed the pattern of many businesses.

“Outside of a few exceptions, we have instructed our staff to work from home,” a statement from Tepper Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Panthers, said on March 12. “We have limited travel for Panthers coaches and scouts until further notice and will continue to prepare for the upcoming league year. TSE will continue to closely monitor developments and remain in contact with local health officials.”

The NFL Draft, currently scheduled for April 23-25, will go on as planned but no longer live from Las Vegas.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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