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Tsai will continue to pay hourly workers at Barclays

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RISE Conference 2017 Photo by studioEAST/Getty Images

Joe Tsai, who was one of the first NBA owners to agree to pay hourly workers during the league’s stoppage, will continue that coverage, according to a spokesman for BSE Global, the parent company of the Nets and Barclays Center.

A new timetable hasn’t been disclosed.

On the day after the March 11 shutdown, Tsai said publicly he was working on a plan to help workers.

By the end of March, Tsai told the arena workers union, HERE, that he would extend pay and benefits through the end of May. Ultimately, 2,000 employees —including more than 600 employees of Levy Restaurants, the arena food concessionaire— were covered under the plan. A union spokesman has said the original plan cost Tsai $6 million. Tsai has a net worth estimated at around $12 billion.

Tsai also arranged for the donation of five tons of food from the arena to City Harvest, the city’s biggest food bank. Perhaps, most significantly, Tsai and his wife, Clara, have provided millions of dollars worth of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) and ventilators to New York, San Diego and Detroit during the coronavirus crisis. The donation of 2,000 ventilators, coming at the height of the crisis, won plaudits from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Last week, in talking with Sarah Kustok, Tsai explained the thinking behind his decision. He said he had a “duty to take care of your employees. First thing is to make sure they are safe. but also we realized that if there are no games and concerts at Barclays Center, and there are hourly wage workers that are going to be without paychecks, for several months. And we decided to cover them, for a few months.”

That “few months” now seems to be open-ended. The arena, of course, is not just the home of the Nets and Liberty but the venue for more than a hundred concerts, family shows and other revenue-producing events. Many experts have said arenas and theaters will be among the last New York businesses to open up.