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Joel Embiid, Sixers, Josh Harris, Michael Rubin

Joel Embiid donation forced Sixers ownership to ‘do a 180’ amid PR fiasco

The Philadelphia 76ers’ ownership group proposed salary cuts that would see at-will employees lose up to 20% of their pay during the 2019-20 NBA season hiatus. They got rightfully burned for it, especially once Joel Embiid volunteered to do what they weren’t willing to do.

Sixers and New Jersey Devils employees were sent a memo noting that at-will employees would see immediate cuts to their pay. Contracted employees like coaches and front-office personnel were asked to voluntarily opt into this program as a means to avoid layoffs.

It didn’t take long for the memo to leak and for fans to be irate at this decision. Comments pointing out the mammoth net worths of Josh Harris and Michael Rubin soon started hitting social media as a way to criticize the organization for taking that measure.

When Embiid (the third-highest player on the team) pledged $500,000 to coronavirus relief aid and offered to assist those employees with financial hardships, the Sixers started looking like an outright mess.

Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer noted as much on his Locked On 76ers podcast:

“They were destroyed, at least locally, in sportstalk radio. It was a bad look for the team,” said the Sixers beat writer. “A bad look.”

Embiid having the social conscience to pick up the slack the owners wouldn’t dare to was the cherry on top of this public relations fiasco.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported other NBA teams were thinking about taking similar measures during the suspension of the regular season, but they wanted to evaluate the PR fallout.

Now they know.

Hours after Embiid pledged to help with this global pandemic and those affected by it, a report of Rubin being “upset” and “outraged” at the salary cut decision emerged. Only minutes later, the Sixers had done a 180 and reversed their initiative.

Embiid followed with his nod of approval:

But the damage was already done.

Embiid, an employee of the Philadelphia 76ers, had shown more social conscience and compassion than the two billionaires who own the Sixers and Devils.

Embiid, who makes a beefy salary of $27.5 million this season, was willing to part with $500,000-plus to aid the fight against COVID-19 and help workers who wouldn’t be fully compensated by the team.

That follows a trend of several NBA players like Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, and others donating toward this cause and pledging to help those who suffer due to this season’s halt.

Yet the Sixers’ attempt to penny-pinch employees during this hiatus truly shows the ownerships lone motivation: money.

Sure, owners across the NBA have the most to lose with the potentially mammoth revenue losses due to the hiatus. Harris ($3.8 billion) and Rubin’s ($2.9 billion) net worth is partly tied to their business with the Sixers and Devils.

But an employee who cashes a much smaller check than they do each month paying for billionaires’ “misfortunes” is as bad as it gets in the PR world.

No matter how good the reasons ownership had for that decision, it’s a really bad look to see one of their players step up to do what they couldn’t do.

That was primarily why the organization reversed its course on this only a day after sending out that hideous memo. Harris and Rubin look like cheapskates, and if Rubin truly wasn’t in on this decision, he’s right to be upset with it.

No one truly knows if he was trying to save face by bringing this up only minutes before the Sixers did a 180, but Embiid’s unselfishness and care for his community slapped the greed out of this ownership group that has already seen major profits since buying the team in 2011.

Despite being willing to pay oodles to put up a roster with Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford in the same lineup, Sixers owners have put themselves in the same line of owner cheapskatery as Michael Jordan, Jerry Reinsdorf, Robert Sarver, and Tilman Fertitta.