Brooklyn Nets Honor NYC Essential Workers at Season Opener

Bus operator Luis Jiminez volunteered for double-shifts to cover for sick colleagues and keep MTA buses running their routes and making sure New Yorkers could get around the city. Mohammad Razvi, CEO of the Council of Peoples Organization, a Brooklyn nonprofit, operated a food pantry where Steven Hernandez Gil, a second-grader, gave his time to help neighbors in need.

Clinical nurse Damalai Dalgetym, physician assistant Peterson Exi, and Kevin Herard were among the health care workers who worked tirelessly through the earliest days of the pandemic in hospitals crowded with COVID-19 patients, bringing them both expert care and a sense of calm and compassion.

“In the initial phases, we were very frightened,” said Dalgetym. “We were frightened, but we weren’t deterred. So, we got up every day, because we’re nurses, and you have to come to work. You have to take care of your patients. You have to put your hands on them. And this was the time that I feel as though I am happy that I’m a nurse. The patients need us. We had to be there for them.”

The Brooklyn Nets welcomed them and dozens more at Barclays Center on Tuesday night, dedicating their season opener to the essential workers who worked tirelessly to keep people healthy and safe and to keep the city moving, from the earliest days of the pandemic through today.

“The Brooklyn Nets are proud to launch the start of the 2020-21 NBA season with this very special event, Barclays Essential Together,” said John Abbamondi, CEO of BSE Global. “Barclays Essential Together reflects our collective gratitude for the selflessness displayed by all of New York’s essential workers this year, as well as our recognition of the fundamental human need to be together. Tonight, our entire organization, with incredible partnership from Barclays, will honor these heroes who have embodied “New York Tough” by continuing to serve others in order to keep our City going. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his support of this special event and the return of professional basketball to Brooklyn.”

Together with Barclays and additional generous donors, the Nets raised more than $2 million for COVID-19 relief efforts, similar to what a full crowd at Barclays Center would have generated in ticket sales, with the fund to be distributed to Coalition for the Homeless, The Campaign Against Hunger, Good Shepherd Services, New York Cares, and United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.

“For us as cops, we’re incredibly honored to be here,” said NYPD detective Jason Petri. “We understand there’s doctors and nurses and people who were literally on the front lines every day battling this horrendous, horrific disease, and it’s great honor to be among them, and be here with the other cops who’ve done amazing work. It’s just an honor to be here and be honored by the Nets.”

All in attendance received a “hero bag,” featuring a t-shirt, plaque and foam finger to cheer on the Nets. After a pregame meal on the suite level, with guests spread out among suites, they moved down to the lower level to watch the Nets against the Warriors while socially distanced in specially constructed pods overlooking the court.

Spencer Dinwiddie greeted the guests in a pregame speech, with a banner raised to the Barclays Center rafters to recognize their contribution.

“We’re excited to get the season started,” said Dinwiddie, “and without the work you guys do every day and will continue throughout this year and next year, that wouldn’t be possible.”

Throughout the night, videos were played offering thanks and recognition, featuring NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and Nets players Jeff Green, Joe Harris, Tyler Johnson, Rodions Kurucs, Landry Shamet, and DeAndre Jordan, who recognized Barclays contributions.

At halftime, Abbamondi welcomed the essential workers as well, honoring their efforts.

“I’m so glad that the people who made this game happen, that made it possible for our city to host professional basketball again, are the ones that are here to see it,” said Abbamondi.

“It’s huge,” said Nets coach Steve Nash of the impact the essential workers have had. “We wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have the NBA, wouldn’t have it in this format, we wouldn’t be in this building, if it wasn’t for essential workers. So them putting their lives on the line to help others to make this possible not just in basketball but obviously in the greater public in society; and then, the Tsai family and Barclays has been incredible raising money, relief cases, we’re really proud of this organization, what ownership stands for and what our partner Barclays has been able to do.”