Three! Two! One! Zero! It’s over. Without fanfare, without trophies, without One Shining Moment . . . basketball ended. For fans everywhere, it feels like we lost a limb. Like a wounded veteran who tries to scratch at a foot that used to be there, I keep grabbing the remote and turning to ESPN, looking for a game to watch. OK, maybe that’s overly dramatic, but you get the point.

However, the impact that the void of sports has left on us runs a lot deeper than just a bunch of sad fans. There is big money lost here.

Sports and entertainment drives a large portion of the economy. In fact, it equates to nearly $700 billion annually. That’s a staggering number. So what happens when the entire industry comes to a screeching halt? It impacts real people. I’m not talking about the talented singers and athletes. I’m talking about the event staff: the concessions workers, parking lot attendants, ticket takers, ushers, cleanup crews, changeover teams, and so many others.

RELATED: The Children of Italy Have a Message From the Epicenter of COVID-19: “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

I had the privilege of working in sports and entertainment for 13 years. I saw firsthand the large number of staff it takes to put on events. As an employee for the Tri-City Storm USHL hockey team and the Houston Rockets and Toyota Center, I met and interacted with many of these individuals. They came from all walks of life. Nearly all of them had day jobs or school during the days. Working events on nights, weekends and holidays was a way to earn extra income. Sure, it was an exciting industry to be a part of, but a lot of event staff relied on that money to make ends meet, to help send kids to college, to help cover medical expenses, etc.

Those are the people I thought of first when I heard about all the leagues suspending play and NCAA Tournament cancelation.

Those are the people who will suffer most from lost wages and income. These people may not catch COVID-19, but its impact is still being felt in a severe way.

That’s why I was also overjoyed when I started hearing about NBA players and owners offering their own money to help these people out. It started with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. Cuban has offered to set up a program to assist employees who will lose wages due to the NBA shutdown. Love has offered $100,000 to employees out of work at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

This makes sense. Mark Cuban is a longtime NBA owner who has built his own wealth over his lifetime. Kevin Love is an NBA veteran who understands the right thing to do. But perhaps most impressive was the offer from the NBA’s newest superstar, Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans. Williamson is just 19 years old. A rookie who has dazzled on the court this season. Now, he’s dazzling off the court with an offer to pay the salaries of support staff at the Smoothie King Center for the next 30 days (the minimum length of the NBA shutdown).

“These are folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organization. Unfortunately, many of them are still recovering from long term challenges created by Katrina, and now face the economic impact of the postponement of games because of the virus. My mother has always set an example for me about being respectful for others and being grateful for what we have, and so today I am pledging to cover the salaries for all of those Smoothie King Center workers for the next 30 days,” Williamson wrote on Instagram.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

The people of New Orleans have been incredibly welcoming and supportive since I was Drafted by the Pels last June, and some of the most special people I have met are those who work at smoothie King Center. These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organization. Unfortunately, many of them are still recovering from long term challenges created by Katrina, and now face the economic impact of the postponement of games because of the virus. My mother has always set an example for me about being respectful for others and being grateful for what we have, and so today I am pledging to cover the salaries for all of those Smoothie King Center workers for the next 30 days. This is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates and hopefully we can all join together to relieve some of the stress and hardship caused by this national health crisis. This is an incredibly resilient city full of some of the most resilient people, but sometimes providing a little extra assistance can make things a little easier for the community.

A post shared by Zion Williamson (@zionwilliamson) on

First of all, shout-out to Zion’s mom! Way to raise a humble and caring young man. Secondly, this “kid” just gets it. He’s using his gifts and platform to shine a light in this world.

For us to survive this virus, it’s going to take more than social distancing, it’s going to take social sharing. Sharing of resources, sharing of love, sharing of support.

It’s unknown how far and wide the impacts of this virus will spread. I hope and pray we can all recover quickly. I hope and pray people stay healthy, that the economy bounces back soon, and that my favorite sports resume play so everyone can get back to work. After all, I can’t wait to cheer on my new favorite player, young Zion Williamson.

Stay safe out there, friends.

Kyle Means

Kyle Means is the Director of Marketing for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He enjoyed a fulfilling career in Sports & Entertainment prior to his work in higher education. Past stops include HuskerVision, Houston Rockets/Toyota Center, and the Tri-City Storm/Viaero Event Center. Kyle left the sports biz in 2014 to pursue a career more focused on marketing where he can use a combination of strategic and creative skills. Plus, he now has a few more nights and weekends to spend with his awesome family including his wife (HerViewFromHome founder) Leslie Means, their two daughters Ella and Grace and son, Keithan. Kyle still enjoys watching and playing a variety of sports. The competitive, yet unifying, nature of sports is a strangely beautiful concept that he loves. When he’s not enhancing the brand at UNK, spending time with family or watching/playing sports, Kyle can usually be found volunteering at First Lutheran Church where likes to display a strong faith and give back to the community.