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Suns cut salaries, initiate furloughs amid pandemic

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The Phoenix Suns apply 20% pay cuts across board, furlough some staff.

NBA Announces Possible Re-Opening Of Team Practice Facilities Starting In May Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

On the same day that some season ticket holders were informed there might be no fans at games this season, and that their ticket investment would be rolled over to 2021-22 if that happens, the Suns also announced massive pay cuts and significant furloughs “till we see more positive environment on the horizon”, per Dean Stoyer, Suns Chief Marketing and Communications Officer.

Pay cuts are 20% across the board to employee salaries while they work, and furloughs (i.e. unpaid time off) impact another 5-10% of employees, according to the team.

Is taking a pay cut better than losing your job entirely? Of course! The job market is brutal right now for the entertainment and hospitality industry.

But is a 20% cut absolutely terror-inducing to most of these employees? Yes! As a member of the hospitality industry, I have seen what it has done to our workplace. It started with 80% pay and furloughs. LinkedIn is now full of my former fellow associates who no longer work in hospitality.

Expenses are based on salaries/monthly income. None of us has a 20% cushion sitting around. Any head of household making under $100,000 a year as the primary sole income is almost certainly living paycheck to paycheck without any kind of significant nest egg. And the further short of that six figure salary the scarier every other Friday gets. Guess how many Suns employees are making less than six figures? Probably 95% of them, being conservative. Might be 99%.

Which means everyone mentioned in this “across the board” pay cut is sweating absolute bullets right now. The harsh reality that many have faced is infiltrating the organization.

Yes, the entertainment industry — of which the Suns are a part — has been demolished because of this airborne and highly contagious virus, COVID-19. Absolutely demolished, to the tune of 90-95% loss of revenue into nearly every nook and cranny. The establishments around the ‘Arena Formerly Know as Talking Stick Resort’ have felt this impact as well.

We are now eight long months into it with no end in clear sight.

Add to that the Suns investment this year in a new performance center ($45+ million) and the prepaid outlay* for what is now generically called PHX Arena ($230 million) before it’s paid back to the team through tax collections on, wait for it, tourism-related goods and services like rental cars and hotels.

*I assume this to be the case: that the city of Phoenix will not write a blank check or prepay for the arena renovations, but rather have the Suns send them expense reports that will be reimbursed from the special tax fund passed by the city council last year, but I could be wrong on that. I don’t think I am, but I could be. If I’m right, the city will only pay out of what is collected, and those funds are also based on the decimated entertainment and travel industry. So the reimbursement to the Suns is likely slowed way down too.

I feel absolutely horrible for all of the Suns employees. I hope and pray that this pandemic nightmare is over soon and we can all go back to our entertainment-consuming ways to get peoples’ lives back on track. The ever-growing ripple effect of this lamenting ordeal continues to test our resolve and challenge our faith in the system.

Until then (and forever of course), be nice to your neighbors and strangers. Do unto others. You don’t know what they are going through.