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MLS team under fire for telling out-of-work employees that Pepsi is hiring rather than support them

Jack Baer
Writer

The “United” in the name Minnesota United apparently does not extend to some of the club’s gameday employees.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Minnesota United, one of Major League Soccer’s newer clubs, sent an email to employees on Tuesday that did not pledge to support them like so many other teams and leagues have done while the coronavirus crisis shuts down the industry.

Rather, the reported email told employees they were encouraged to file for unemployment benefits, and that the club’s partners at Cub Foods, PepsiCo and Target are hiring. The email was later leaked to a fan group of the club.

The email was confirmed by the Pioneer Press to have been sent by the team, which defended itself by saying that the email was part of a series of emails to roughly 100 workers:

Minnesota United told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday this email was plucked out of a series of four or five that intended to inform and communicate with a subset of about 100 workers — mostly ticket-takers and ushers who work only a few hours at each Loons home game at the St. Paul stadium. These emails did not go to contracted stadium workers in food, janitorial and security services nor full-time employees, who are working from home during the health crisis.

The defense did little to stop online blowback for the message. Other MLS teams such as Atlanta United and Orlando City have pledged to pay hourly workers for postponed games, per the Press.

Minnesota United is principally owned owned by William McGuire, a former chairman and CEO of UnitedHealth Group. McGuire resigned in disgrace from UnitedHealth in 2006 amid allegations of backdating stock options, purported to be worth $1.6 billion. He eventually paid back over $400 million to the SEC and shareholders.

McGuire is joined in the United’s ownership group by the Minnesota Twins-owning Pohlad family (net worth $3.5 billion as of 2015), Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor ($2.8 billion) and members of the Carlons family ($2.2 billion).

Minnesota United isn’t alone in cutting out gameday employees during the coronavirus shutdown, as the TD Garden — owned by the Boston Bruins and leased by the Boston Celtics — also reportedly informed its workers they were being laid off on Tuesday.

Minnesota United has opted against paying gameday staff amid the coronavirus crisis. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

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