During a time when the Philadelphia 76ers ownership attempted to reduce salaries for certain staff members mere weeks into an unprecedented NBA shutdown and the Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta furloughed 40,000 workers from his businesses to stay afloat — but refused to sell a part of his stake in the team to minority owners because “as a matter of pride,” New Orleans Pelicans and Saints owner Gayle Benson has consistently stood by her employees and the community as a whole during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 16, Benson donated $1 million to create the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund in response to the Coronavirus situation. We learned yesterday that $500,000 of that original sum (plus an additional $100K from the McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco® Brand Pepper Sauce) is going to be distributed to service and hospitality workers in the region through the Louisiana Service and Hospitality Family Assistance Program via the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF).
In addition, it must be noted that an Arena Assistance Fund was established to help Smoothie King Center workers impacted by the NBA postponement of games, and Dixie Beer will donate $1.00 for every case sold through April 30th to the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Employee Relief Fund.
In her latest show of commitment to the region, Mrs. Benson joined Daniel Sallerson on the most recent edition of the Pelicans podcast and she placed a premium on human life, calling for everyone to do their part and flatten the coronavirus curve.
“As good as our culture is, this whole virus thing is really bigger than basketball and football,” Benson said. “We need to care for our citizens first and foremost.”
“We will return stronger than ever,” Benson later continued. “I’m confident. You know, I just miss everyone so much. The players. The fans. The employees. Just everybody. It’s so frustrating. But we need to flatten this curve together.”
As for thoughts on the resumption of the 2019-20 season, Mrs. Benson stated that the Pelicans are doing their best to stay ready and there remains plenty of eagerness to continue climbing the Western Conference standings.
“I’m in constant touch with the Pelicans, with David Griffin and Alvin Gentry,” Benson said. “I’m so confident that the Pelicans are staying ready. We owe this to our fans and we’re ready to deliver. They’re a young team. They’re getting healthy. And you know before this virus started, we were getting to the 8th seed. So, I’m in daily contact with David and Alvin, and they’re also working remotely. I’m hoping we can continue this roll we were on earlier.”
To hear the this interview in its entirety, please visit Pelicans.com or download the Pelicans mobile app.