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Joel Embiid, 76ers to contribute more than $1 million for local health-care workers

76ers center Joel Embiid is helping to fund covid-19 antibody research that may alleviate the need for personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses on the front lines. (Matt Slocum/AP)
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When it comes to novel coronavirus relief, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid isn’t sitting on the sideline.

The three-time all-star is working with team ownership to provide coronavirus antibody testing for local health-care workers. According to ESPN, Embiid and 76ers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer are jointly contributing $1.3 million to fund testing for 1,000 health-care workers in the region.

Embiid has been among the most proactive professional athletes over the past several weeks in combating the coronavirus pandemic, which has plunged the sports world into an indefinite hiatus.

“It’s not as easy as simply writing the check,” Embiid told ESPN. “It’s a process to figure out the best way you feel comfortable helping.”

Last month, Embiid pledged $500,000 to help fund medical relief initiatives, such as supplying personal protective equipment (PPE). It is in extremely short supply across the country, often leaving doctors and nurses in danger.

Embiid went a step further, according to ESPN, discussing other measures with physicians David T. Martin from Apeiron Life and Brian Sennett of Penn Medicine. Through those talks, Embiid learned funding for antibody testing was a top priority because of its potential to reduce the need for PPE.

“If they have immunity, then they can work in risky environments with the peace of mind that they most likely won’t get infected again or spread the virus,” Embiid said. “In addition, it may be possible for those with a lot of antibodies to donate blood and help other patients that are very ill.”

Since the early stages of the pandemic, Embiid has been in communication with 76ers ownership and General Manager Elton Brand to determine which projects would be most helpful for the organization to assist financially.

“The only way for us to get through this terrible global crisis is to ensure a safe work environment for health care professionals and ultimately find a treatment,” Harris said in a statement. “We are very proud to partner with the incredible team at Penn Medicine, who are tirelessly working toward this by identifying immunity in our brave doctors and nurses.”

Harris and Blitzer are graduates of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and maintain strong ties to the university.

Embiid also had a hand in compelling 76ers ownership to reconsider a widely unpopular pay cut for franchise employees earning more than $50,000. Within hours of Embiid telling ESPN he would assist such workers if the move went ahead, Harris scrapped the plan.

In addition to helping launch Embiid’s research fund, 76ers ownership has joined him in providing donations approaching eight figures, according to ESPN, for hunger relief, education and support for the Philadelphia medical community.

“Ultimately, antibody testing could be used to determine when people can go back to work,” Embiid said. “Possibly even in the case of professional athletes like me.”

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