SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert already apologized for his less-than-serious attitude toward the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he's trying to make up for it.
Gobert is donating more than $500,000 to support both the employee relief fund at Vivint Smart Home Arena and COVID-related social services relief in Utah, Oklahoma City and within the French health care system, the Utah Jazz announced Saturday. The pledge is an addition to efforts from the Larry H. Miller Group, a press release said.
Gobert's donation will include $200,000 in aid to part-time employees at Vivint Arena who are not able to work due to the NBA's hiatus and other entertainment event cancelations as the state tries to minimize public gatherings.
More than 800 part-time employees work events at Vivint Arena in various areas such as food service, security, guest services, custodial and more.
Gobert will also contribute $100,000 to Oklahoma and $100,000 to Utah to assist families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an additional 100,000 euros to his native country of France.
“I am humbled by the tireless efforts and care of people around the globe for those affected by COVID-19, especially my own communities of Utah and France, in addition to my appreciation for the state of Oklahoma and my care there, and of course, my Utah Jazz family,” Gobert said in a news release issued by the Jazz.
Gobert has been villainized on Twitter and social media for a press conference he gave on Monday, two days before his positive test. As he got up from the table, Gobert made a point to touch each recorder and microphone seemingly making light of the new media protocols the Jazz had put in place to help protect against the spreading of the virus.
“The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered,” Gobert said in an Instagram post on Thursday. “At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as (a) way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.”
Gobert’s test put things in a more serious light not only for him, but for the rest of the nation. He was the first athlete in an American league to test positive for the novel coronavirus, and his positive test led to the league indefinitely shutting down. That created a domino effect with sports and entertainment events everywhere being canceled or postponed.
“It is entirely surreal," ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said on SportsCenter. "That word keeps getting used, but it is real and it’s confusing as hell because I don’t know what we can do, or where we can go, or who is going to tell us that the coast is clear. And maybe we’re going to look back at some point and feel like this all of this was a bit of an overreaction. I know a lot of people feel it, maybe it’s a huge overreaction. Or maybe the diagnosis of a big man from France did our country a huge favor.
“This much I know to be true — he hit the warp speed button on all of this, and by taking away the games that are our society’s greatest gathering place and common ground, it forced everybody to take all of this a whole lot more serious.”
It certainly made it more serious for Gobert. And now, he's trying to do his part to help the ones less fortunate than himself be able to cope with the pandemic.
“I know there are countless ways that people have been impacted," Gobert said. "These donations are a small token that reflect my appreciation and support for all those impacted and are the first of many steps I will take to try and make a positive difference while continuing to learn more about COVID-19 and educate others."