Pelicans Star Zion Williamson Pledges to Pay the Salaries for Staffers of the Smoothie King Center

"These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans," Zion Williamson said of the people who work at the Smoothie King Center

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson has selflessly stepped up to support those in need and unable to work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, Williamson, 19, announced his decision to pay the salaries of all of the women and men employed by the Smoothie King Center “for the next 30 days” after the NBA announced earlier this week that the season would be suspended.

“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,” Williamson wrote on Instagram of the indoor area where the Pelicans play.

“These are the folks who make our games possible, creating the perfect environment for our fans and everyone involved in the organization,” Williamson continued.

The athlete went on to explain that the workers are still recovering from hurricane 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.

Williamson shared that the gesture 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.”

Williamson concluded the post by praising the city of New Orleans, writing, “This is an incredibly resilient city of full of some of the most resilient people, but sometimes providing a little extra assistance can make things a little easier for the community.”

Zion Williamson
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In response, the Pelicans released a statement, thanking Williamson for his generosity.

“The Pelicans say thank you and applaud Zion and his family for his generous giving today to the employees of ASM New Orleans and the Smoothie King Center during this very unfortunate and troubling time,” they wrote. “Earlier this morning, the Pelicans engaged with management at ASM New Orleans to determine what the team could do through ASM New Orleans to assist their employees. While it is a bit more complicated being that the Pelicans are simply the tenant of the building, the giving and helping this community in a time of nee by Mrs. Benson and her organization is unquestioned. When people need help, there is NEVER a question of who will be there.”

Williamson joins a number of other athletes who have pledged to give back.

On Friday, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo tweeted that he will be donating $100,000 to the staff of Fiserv Forum.

“It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives an my teammates lives easier. Me and my family pledge to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. We can get through this together!” Antetokounmpo, 25, wrote.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love is also donating $100,000 through his foundation to support the staff at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, the Cleveland arena where his team plays.

“I’m concerned about the level of anxiety that everyone is feeling and that is why I’m committing $100,000 through the @KevinLoveFund in support of the @Cavs arena and support staff that had a sudden life shift due to the suspension of the NBA season,” Love wrote alongside a photo of himself taking a selfie with the arena workers. “I hope that during this time of crisis, others will join me in supporting our communities.”

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency — “two very big words” — in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

He said the declaration would unlock about $50 billion in funding to aid the local, state and federal response to the virus.

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