Major Toronto sports franchises team up to create fund for event staff

The five major sports teams in Toronto have joined together to create a fund to assist arena workers and support staff, and Montreal Canadiens have announced they will pay arena staff during the suspension.

Five of the major professional sports franchises in Toronto are teaming up to create a fund to help event staff.

Management, coaches and players from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto FC, and the Toronto Argonauts contribute to the fund in order to provide additional support to workers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“As we’re dealing with these unprecedented circumstances, we’re seeing this as a time where our communities can band together and take care of one another,” Maple Leafs president & Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan said in a team release. “So many of our staff provide us love and support every day they come to work, so we see this as an opportunity to reciprocate those same virtues in this time of uncertainty. Our employees are part of the fabric of our team and following the leadership of MLSE’s ownership group along with CEO Michael Friisdahl, who led the launch of the financial assistance program for employees, our players, coaches and management all wanted to pitch in to help ease some of the burden and worry that affects so many at this difficult time.”

Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment previously stated that they would provide a financial payment to bridge employees between their employee benefits and 95 per cent of their regular average earnings (the maximum allowed by Service Canada for them to be eligible for full EI benefit) for the next four weeks. They would also pay the equivalent top-up portion to workers who do not qualify for EI bnefits.

“As the entire world grapples with the challenging effects of COVID-19, our Toronto sports community must band together and support each other,” Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, said in a statement. “No matter the outcome of the game, our staff are often the people Toronto fans remember most about their trip to the ballpark, field, or arena – for their smiles, helping hands, and passion. It is an honour to join my counterparts and exceptional sports leaders in our city to help make a meaningful impact on the lives of all our game day staff.”

Athletes and teams across the sports world have pitched in to provide support for employees whose lives have been impacted.

“For me, the definition of teammate was never limited to the people who wear our jersey or who work for the Raptors. We showed that last spring in good times. Now we’re coming together to get through these unprecedented times,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. “Being a good teammate means looking out for our neighbours, friends and the people we work with. Through this fund, we all pledge to be good teammates to our arena, stadium and support staff. We want to be here for them, the way they are always here for us.”

Many of the professional sports leagues have had their seasons put on hold as a result of the coronavirus with government officials recommending limiting mass gatherings.

“Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts are committed to assisting the people who help make our games at BMO Field possible. Our team motto for TFC is ‘All For One’ and for the Argos it’s ‘Pull Together.’,” TFC and Argos president Bill Manning wrote in a statement. “These slogans say it all, and we are proud to do our part along with the Jays, Leafs and Raptors to help as we get through this challenging time.”

There have been no positive cases reported among the Toronto sports teams.

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