Heat employees feeling financial pinch during lockout

Despite working for what is presumed to be one of the NBA’s most profitable franchises, Miami Heat employees are facing salary cutbacks during the lockout if they want to keep their jobs.

Even after the Heat advanced to the NBA Finals and had a season-ticket retention rate of more than 95 percent, Miami owner Micky Arison has trimmed salaries for most of his staffers in the basketball operations of the team.

The Palm Beach Post reports that multiple sources indicate that Heat staffers in basketball operation — in coaching, training, scouting, equipment management, media relations and others — were by the team last fall.

It came shortly after the team had signed LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and was selling tickets at record levels. 

To guarantee their retention during a potential NBA lockout, Heat employees were required to accept an across-the-board 10 percent pay cut. Those cuts were in effect from the lockout’s July 1 start through Sept. 30.

On Oct. 1, that paycut would balloon to 25 percent through March 31 or until the lockout ended, whichever came first.  And if the lockout extended past March 31, the salary reduction would rise to 50 percent.

The Post reported that both Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra agreed to the deals. But it really hurts those employees with lower salaries.

Such an action isn’t unprecedented among South Florida sports teams. Steve Ross, the Miami Dolphins’ owner,  rolled back salaries by as much as 20 percent during the NFL lockout, but made up  the difference after the impasse was settled.

The Heat are still getting to keep the money from their season-ticket retention. So it’s not like ownership is immediately feeling the strike’s effects.

Players and owners still hope that the start of the regular season can be salvaged by intense negotiations over the next several days.  The league has set a Monday deadline before it starts cutting regular-season games.

If that happens, it could have catatrosphic result for the league that only a few months ago was surging with momentum.

“The damage will be enormous,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday.

Tell that to those Heat employees and others across the league who are already feeling the pinch.

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