Vancouver Whitecaps taking care of more than business during COVID-19 pandemic

Co-owner Steve Nash led a live workout on Instagram. Staffers are calling friends and family as well as season ticket-holders to check up on them.

The Vancouver Whitecaps are staying busy — and in touch with their community.

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When Major League Soccer suspended play March 12, new Whitecaps CEO Mark Pannes instituted daily 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. PT website updates on the club, league, city and COVID-19.

In addition to calling more than 300 of their customers daily, the Whitecaps have also asked staff to take time to reach out to people they know who may feel isolated to see how they are.

Pannes says he wants the team to show this is bigger than business.

"We said 'Listen, this is your work ... Your work right now is to be a good citizen, a good family member, a good friend. See if you can help somebody. And do a lot of listening,'" said Pannes. "'And if you find out someone's in need of help, let's help them.'"

Pannes reckoned staff connected with 400 to 500 people on Thursday, the first day of the program.

"That's a small number in the greater scheme of things but it probably means a lot to them," Pannes said.

And in a world of texts, emails and social media posts, having someone pick up the phone to have a conversation is an old-school plus. Especially in uncertain times.

Craig Flamma, who describes himself as a hardcore Whitecaps supporter, tweeted about a call he got from his new season-ticket representative Ty.

"He called me to check up and I told him I got laid off. He even called back and left a message to say if you want to talk about footy or anything else to call him. Awesome."

Clubs across the country — and the globe — are doing similar things. Players from English rugby clubs Wasps and Leicester Tigers have called longtime, elderly season-ticket holders to see how they are doing.

Ben Fisk, the first player signed by expansion Atletico Ottawa of the Canadian Premier League, and teammates also self-isolating after returning from training camp in Spain have phoned fans who put down season-ticket deposits.

Toronto FC is preparing modified versions of its home player workouts to post on social media for everyone to try.

The Los Angeles Galaxy are donating to a local food bank. And Dignity Health, the team's official health-care provider, is offering free virtual visits with a code for anyone experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

"Clubs have a unique mantle from which to be leaders in the community," said Pannes. "And so we have to take advantage of it."

Nash, a former two-time NBA MVP, was quick to do his bit with the virtual workout.

"How cool is that?" asked Pannes, who joined the franchise in early January.

Pannes comes to Vancouver with an impressive resume that includes stints with Italy's AS Roma, the New York Knicks and Paris Basket Racing, a French basketball club, as well as serving as director of the Global Sports Group for HSBC Private Bank in London.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2020.

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