- Athletes and teams in the U.S. are donating thousands to pay arena employees who are being financially impacted by the NBA, MLB, and other sport season suspensions.
- Meanwhile, Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma and Dell Technologies billionaire Michael Dell offered the U.S. medical supplies and technical infrastructure support.
- As cases of COVID-19 surge across the globe, China is beginning to recover and is easing up on drastic restrictions.
- Viral video shows Wuhan doctors celebrating the closure of the city’s last temporary hospital.
Amid all of the panic surrounding the spreading coronavirus, many big names are offering financial support to those in need.
The suspension of the NBA season, for instance, isn’t just affecting million dollar players and fans. It’s having a huge impact on thousands of employees in basketball arenas across the nation.
Last week, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love committed to giving $100,000 through his non-profit to help support the Cavaliers’ arena and staff. Soon after, other players followed his lead, like Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokoump.
Antetokoumpo tweeted, “It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier. Me and my family pledge to donate $100,000 to the Fiserv Forum staff. We can get through this together!”
Zion Williamson, a forward for the New Orleans Pelicans, said on Instagram that he was paying the salaries of Smoothie King Center employees 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,” he wrote.
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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.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who first brought up pay issues right as the season was suspended, said the Mavericks would pay event staff during the hiatus. The Golden State Warriors took it a step further, with franchise owners, players, and coaches promising to contribute $1 million for Chase Center employees. After all of these generous announcements, more teams made commitments to help arena staff, including the Atlanta Hawks, the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, LA Lakers and Clippers.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert even promised assistance of his own after apologizing for not taking the virus seriously. Gobert prompted the NBA shut down when he tested positive for the virus after joking touching microphones at a press conference and reportedly acting “careless” around other players.
In an effort to make things right, he encouraged people to use his story as a lesson and is donating $200,000 to the employee relief fund at Vivint Smart Home Arena. On top of that, he’s giving $100,000 each to assist families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah and Oklahoma City, plus 100,000 euros for his native country of France.
And this isn’t just happening in the NBA, Major League Baseball stars have been donating funds for their workers, including Astros players George Springer and Alex Bregman. A few National Hockey League teams have also reportedly been working on plans to reimburse workers for lost wages.
Medical and Technological Support
The donations have eased some employees, allowing them to find comfort in knowing that they will still have an income during this stressful time. But it’s not just employee’s impacted by closures who are seeing support.
Others are focusing on medical necessities, like Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma. Ma is donating 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million protective face masks to the U.S., saying that from his own country’s experience, “speedy and accurate testing and adequate personal protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus.”
The Chinese billionaire has already offered similar supplies for areas like Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran, and Spain, and others. According to tweets from the Jack Ma Foundation, the first U.S. shipment is already on its way.
Tech billionaire Michael Dell also explained how Dell Technologies was helping fight the coronavirus worldwide. Dell said the company has made a donation of two million yuan ($284,000 USD) to fund needed materials in China including surgical masks, protective clothing and eye protectors for local hospitals.
Along with technical infrastructure support for the CDC in China, the company also set aside $3 million USD in funds and in-kind technology to help meet the needs of organizations working to treat and contain COVID-19.
Dell has also agreed to match employee donations to the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund up to $10,000 per employee.
Many are celebrating all of these moves, which show a stark contrast in leadership in comparison to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who reportedly recommended that employees ‘donate’ PTO to one another amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Cases Ease Up in China
In an effort to remind people that this outbreak will pass, many internet users have been celebrating the progress being made in Wuhan China, where the virus first broke out.
While people across the globe have been forced to stay inside, healthcare professionals have been working tirelessly to help thousands of people who have fallen ill, putting themselves at risk.
In a viral video, medical workers in Wuhan took their face masks off to reveal smiles as they celebrated the closing of the last temporary hospital. Last month, China quickly built more than a dozen temporary medical facilities last month, including two in Wuhan that proved more than 2,000 more beds to accommodate the overflow of patients in the city.
As of Monday, China has reported nearly 81,000 cases, with more than 67,000 patients who have recovered and about 3,000 who have died. But the country’s quarantine measures and have drastically reduced their number of daily cases and China has now begun easing local travel restrictions in an effort to get thousands of people back to work.
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Britney Spears Asks For Privacy After Fans Called Cops to Conduct a Wellness Check on Her
Fans said they were concerned after the singer deleted her Instagram account.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated to include a statement from Britney Spears
Fans Call 911
Britney Spears said her fans “went a little too far” after some called the police to conduct a wellness check on her.
The fans, many fueled by online conspiracy theories, were concerned about Spears because she deleted her Instagram account. While this is something the singer has done multiple times in the past, her fans thought she had left secret signals in her last post suggesting she needed help.
Some even posted videos of them calling emergency services on TikTok, a platform that is full of conspiracy videos about Spears.
“I love and adore my fans but this time things went a little too far and my privacy was invaded,” Spears wrote in a statement on Thursday, citing “prank phone calls” that were made to police.
According to Spears, officers did not enter her home because once they got to her gate, they “quickly realized there was no issue and left immediately.”
“This felt like I was being gaslit and bullied once the incident made it to the news and being portrayed once again in a poor and unfair light by the media,” Spears continued. “During this time in my life, I truly hope the public and my fans who I care so much about can respect my privacy moving forward.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Ventura County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Page Six that the department “did get calls into our dispatch” but added there was no reason to believe that Spears was “in any kind of harm or any kind of danger.”
That spokesperson declined to say if officials contacted Spears or conducted a wellness check, citing privacy and public trust issues.
The Prominence of Britney Spears Conspiracies
Just over a year has passed since Spears was freed from a highly restrictive conservatorship that controlled her life and finances for 13 years. Throughout the conservatorship, fans tried to use the pop icon’s social media to pick up clues that she was secretly struggling. She did not publicly speak about the conservatorship until the summer of 2021.
Now that she has her freedom, fans are still reading heavily into her posts. Some believe there are hidden messages in her captions and in the gestures she does while dancing. Others think she is dead, missing, or hiding and that a body double is being used in her posts. Some are so concerned that they are coordinating a mass effort to pressure the Los Angeles Times into investigating Spears’ whereabouts and safety.
In the last several years, many have reflected on Spears’ early days in the spotlight and the cruel ways she was harassed and targeted by paparazzi, news outlets, and culture at large. Often the punchline to a joke throughout the 2000s, many now sympathize with Spears, who was forced to endure heavy public scrutiny at a young age. Documentaries like “Framing Britney Spears” prompted many to see Spears as a victim of abusive media tactics, not the “crazy” woman tabloids painted her to be.
Many are now concerned that fans are only going to subject Spears to a new onslaught of harassment by calling the police to her house. Even if the conspiracy theories are technically well-intentioned and often come from a place of concern, some believe they will jumpstart a media frenzy that could harm Spears’ mental well-being.
Razzies Apologize For Nominating 12-Year-Old, Adopt Age Rules For Future Nominations
The group’s founder said the Razzies regret “any hurt” the young actress may have “experienced as a result of our choices.”
Razzies Face Backlash
The Razzie Awards revoked its “insensitive” nomination of 12-year-old Ryan Kiera Armstrong and added new guidelines banning child performers from being nominated in the future.
The Razzies, which award the year’s worst movies, included Armstrong in its “Worst Actress” lineup for her role in “Firestarter.” Bryce Dallas Howard, Diane Keaton, Kaya Scodelario, and Alicia Silverstone were also nominated in the category.
Armstrong starred alongside Zac Efron in “Firestarter,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The picture received a 10% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
While the film was broadly panned, many thought it was a bridge too far to nominate a child for a bad acting award.
“The Razzies are already mean-spirited & classless, but to nominate a kid is just repulsive & wrong,” child star Julian Hilliard, best known for his work in “WandaVision,” tweeted. “Why put a kid at risk of increased bullying or worse? Be better.”
Actor and podcast host Brandon Hardesty said the nomination was “completely ignorant and cynical.”
“They have no clue what this can do to a child actress who probably considered her starring role in FIRESTARTER as a high point in her life,” he wrote.
“That girl was the best part of that mess of a movie,” film critic Shannon McGrew tweeted. “And on top of that, no kid should ever be nominated for an award that punches down on them.”
Razzies founder John Wilson addressed the backlash in a statement to the press on Wednesday, calling the criticism “valid.”
“Sometimes, you do things without thinking, Then you are called out for it. Then you get it,” Wilson said. “It’s why the Razzies were created in the first place.”
“We have removed Armstrong’s name from the Final Ballot that our members will cast next month,” he continued. “We also believe a public apology is owed Ms. Armstrong, and wish to say we regret any hurt she experienced as a result of our choices.”
In addition to removing Armstrong’s nomination, The Razzies is now adopting “a Voting Guideline precluding any performer or film-maker under 18 years of age from being considered” for awards.
“Since our motto is ‘Own Your Bad,’ we realize that we ourselves must also live up to it,” the statement closed.
While Armstrong will be the last child to nab a Razzie nomination, she was far from the first. Jake Lloyd made the list for his turn as young Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” Gary Coleman and Macaulay Culkin also got nominations as teenagers.
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“A lack of robust competition in our industry meaningfully stunts innovation, and consumers are who suffer,” Jack Groetzinger said.
Two months after technical difficulties blocked countless Taylor Swift fans from snagging seats to her tour, a bipartisan group of Senators held a hearing to re-examine the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster.
The two entertainment giants merged in 2010. Jack Groetzinger, the CEO of the rival ticket-selling platform SeatGeek, said during Tuesday’s hearing that the two need to be broken up to benefit consumers.
“One, a lack of robust competition in our industry meaningfully stunts innovation, and consumers are who suffer,” he said. “Two, venues fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster, and three, the only way to restore competition in this industry is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) echoed concerns about the lack of competition, arguing that Live Nation is the “definition of monopoly.”
“Live Nation is so powerful that it doesn’t even need to exert pressure, it doesn’t need to threaten, because people just fall in line,” she said.
The Eras Tour Debacle
Ticketmaster has long been accused of price-gouging and complicating the ticket-buying process. Those issues made international headlines in November during the presale for Swift’s highly anticipated Era’s Tour.
Millions of fans who attempted to enter Ticketmaster’s virtual queue walked away empty-handed after experiencing crashes, price inflation, and a myriad of other issues.
According to Ticketmaster, the incredibly high demand, coupled with an onslaught of bot attacks, forced the platform to slow sales down. After the company delayed sales in certain cities and canceled the general sale altogether, Swift called the ordeal “excruciating.”
“We asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could,” she wrote on Instagram in November.
The controversy prompted many to accuse Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, of holding a monopoly over the concert and live events industry. The U.S. Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into the entertainment giant.
Ticketmaster Takes Heat
Ticketmaster has repeatedly tried to blame a number of factors for the failed Swift presale, even at one point suggesting the sale was too popular because the “Anti-Hero” singer waited so long to tour.
“May I suggest, respectfully, that Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m the problem, it’s me,’” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said during the hearing.
Still, the company continued to point the finger at record-breaking bot attacks.
“We knew bots would attack at onsale and planned accordingly. We were then hit with three times the amount of bot traffic that we’d ever experienced,” Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold said on Capitol Hill.
“The attack requires [us] to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience we deeply regret. We apologize to the fans, we apologize to Miss Swift, we need to do better and we will do better,” he continued.
Others present at the hearing were not happy with Live Nation’s bot defense. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said that she has worked with companies in a variety of industries that deal with bots without these issues.
“You know what, they get bot attacks every single day by the thousands. By the thousands,” she said. “And they have figured it out, but you guys haven’t? This is unbelievable.”
“You can’t blame bots for what happened to Taylor Swift,” JAM Productions CEO Jerry Mickelson added. “There’s more to that story that you’re not hearing.”
According to Mickelson, Ticketmaster can actually stand to benefit from glitchy sales on its platform.
“The process, when it’s slowed down, increases the money that Ticketmaster makes because they make money on fees and as the ticket prices go up due to dynamically priced tickets, Ticketmaster makes more off that,” he claimed. “So it’s to their advantage to slow the process down.”
Outrage against Ticketmaster has become so widespread that Sen. Blumenthal said the company was responsible for “an absolutely stunning achievement.”
“You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”