Why Rockets’ Tilman Fertitta was forced to reverse course

Houston Rockets Tilman Fertitta (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Tilman Fertitta (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

As Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta recently reversed course on his initial stance on the coronavirus, here’s why this was his only option.

Following the economic impact of the coronavirus, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta originally announced that the employees of his Post Oak hotel weren’t going to be eligible for benefits. This meant these workers wouldn’t be eligible for paid time off, vacation, or medical benefits, and that if they did take a vacation, they simply wouldn’t be paid.

This wasn’t the best way to go about this, and Fertitta rightfully faced criticism. Fertitta ultimately backtracked within less than 24 hours after making the initial announcement/decision, which was the only advisable way to go about the situation. Fertitta had already cut their hours, so the least he could do was allow them to continue receiving benefits.

Fertitta owns multiple businesses, including the Rockets, and he can’t afford for his brand/reputation to continue to take a hit. He’s already been viewed as someone who has placed a heightened importance on profits, above all else, which has rubbed many the wrong way.

Fertitta has also been very outspoken about how the Houston Rockets have been losing profits this season, due to the China fiasco, which involved Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, earlier in the season. Fertitta’s initial decision had already caused many Houstonians to turn on him, which could have resulted in more lost profits across the board, not to mention many requesting for him to sell the Rockets.

The coronavirus has already forced many Houstonians to be without work, as we’ve seen bars, clubs, and even shopping malls close. We’ve seen restaurants eliminate the option of dining in as well, so how could Fertitta not realize the seriousness of such a situation?

But even aside from that, these employees have earned the time off, as it’s accrued over the course of the year. So they ought to be able to decide when they want to use their PTO, and not have Fertitta be the determinant of such a decision.

This specific hotel is in Harris County, which has already had 18 confirmed cases, according to Houston’s affiliate ABC 13. On top of that, ABC 13 has also reported that the greater Houston area has already had 62 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as of Thursday morning.

This further illustrates the seriousness of the issue, and the impact it’s had on the Houston area, not to mention worldwide. When you take this data into consideration, it explains why Fertitta was being criticized for the initial decision, which is why he was forced to reverse course.

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Kudos to Fertitta for eventually getting it right and making the right call. We don’t often see him waver on a decision or change his mind, so he should be commended for this, especially with a situation this serious.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.