COVID starting to impact city's teams

The Blackhawks announced pay cuts and furloughs on Thursday. The Cubs are reducing the salaries of its staff as well.

Good morning, frents …

Nothing against you guys, but there’s a Weber grill and a couple of bags of charcoal that need my attention for the next few days. I’m looking forward to some quality time with them. Whatever you’re planning for the holiday weekend, I hope you enjoy it just as much. The times may suck, but it’s OK to take a break from worrying if you can.

Pay cuts and furloughs hit the city’s sports teams


For the average fan, it’s easy to think a team’s labor is limited to its athletes — the right fielders, linebackers and guards that make millions each year.

That’s not true, of course. Every professional sporting team in town — as well as a large number of university athletic departments — are staffed by thousands of workers who have been just as worried for their jobs as anyone else since COVID-19 hit.

I’m talking about the men and women who arrange the team’s travel and hit the road to scout future talent. The marketing folks who nail down the details for each bobblehead giveaway and fill the team’s social accounts with the content you consume each day. The salespeople who move tickets and the entertainment directors who keep the scoreboard lit up like a winning slot machine. They all have jobs that might not be essential when there are no games to play (or no fans to fill the stands once they return).

Each team has had to make a call on what to do with those workers as revenues flatline and home dates have evaporated. For the past two months, things have mostly been business as usual — the Bulls and Blackhawks even agreed to pay its 1,200 gameday workers through the end of their scheduled seasons.

But how long can that hold if the leagues struggle to bring the games back? This week unfortunately brought the first wave of bad news with …

  • The Blackhawks reducing salaries and furloughed employees, The Athletic and Sun-Times reported on Thursday.
  • The Cubs have cut salaries across the board — including big cuts for both Theo Epstein and Crane Kenney — but have guaranteed no furloughs through at least the end of June, the AP reported.

The White Sox, to their credit, have not cut salaries and will not have furloughs through at least June 30, Ken Rosenthal tweeted. For as much as we might think Jerry Reinsdorf is a lousy owner from a competitive standpoint, it’s clear he takes care of the people in his own buildings really well.

The Bulls and Bears haven’t announced any changes, but it’s probably safe to assume those employees are on more stable ground given the White Sox news and the NFL continuing to operate like nothing is wrong. (Ah, the luxury of a pandemic hitting in the offseason when you’re a fall sport.)

Still, the Blackhawks and Cubs news mixed with similar news coming from other teams around the country is a reminder that pro sports is far from immune to contributing to the nation’s staggering unemployment numbers. Here’s hoping the employees affected can recover from the setback just like everyone else who’s had their lives upended by this awful time.

NFL teams received a list of rule proposals that owners will vote on during a virtual meeting next Thursday. There are two that would possibly have a big impact if approved, though both would probably be tested out as preseason experiments first:

  • Adding a booth umpire and senior technology advisor to officiating crews. Both would have access to video and the ability to make calls and talk with the referee from above.
  • Instead of an onside kick, teams could get the option to retain possession by completing one possession of more than 15 yards from its own 25-yard line. That would certainly spice up the end of close games, though the Bears are probably still better off trying the miniscule odds that come with an onside kick.

The NBA return rumors are starting to take shape. Thursday brought not-so-quiet whispers that camps will open June 21 with a July 15 start date.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the NHLPA was discussing the 24-team return to play proposal on Thursday and would begin voting with results expected sometime today. Vegas, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver are among those being considered for hub cities, LeBrun reported.

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Adam Hoge did a video breakdown of Cole Kmet, just the right sort of thing to watch on a slow Friday before the holiday weekend. (NBC Sports Chicago)

Dan Pompei’s feature on the physical toll the NFL took on Kyle Long is as good as everyone says it is. Evel Knievel has nothing on Kyle. (The Athletic)

David Haugh breaks down the new financial reality for the Cubs. (670 The Score)

Sox pitcher Evan Marshall told Chuck Garfien that the players are being made out to look like the bad guys. (White Sox Talk podcast)

Loved the NBA2K tidbits that Phil Thompson reported: Among them, usage of Michael Jordan in the game’s online mode increased 99% in the week following the premiere of the “The Last Dance.” (Tribune)

How the Bulls held off the Mavericks’ play for the third pick in ‘84. (The Athletic)

Redoing the 2014, 2015 and 2016 NBA draft for the Bulls. (Blogabull)

Teddy’s out here with his list of most walkable golfing tracks and spilling the beans on basically the only course I go golfing at. (Tribune)

• Finally, I forgot to include a #TBT in yesterday’s email. Here’s my makeup note, which can double for your Monday motivation …

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And that’s it for the week! Off for that long weekend of grilling and maybe playing some Super Mega Baseball 3. Back next Tuesday morning. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter!

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