PayPal threatens to cut NBA franchise sponsorship if controversial owner stays


The fintech giant does not want to be associated with Robert Sarver

PayPal has revealed that it will not continue sponsoring the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise if banned owner Robert Sarver returns to the fold once his suspension has ended.

The NBA suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10 million this week after an investigation prompted by an ESPN report last November showed a pattern of racist, misogynistic and lewd conduct over the 18-year period during which he has owned the Suns.

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Sarver was the subject of an NBA probe. © Christian Petersen / Getty Images
NBA owner banned and fined $10 million in racism scandal

In a statement released on Friday, PayPal President Dan Schulman highlighted the fintech giant’s “strong record of combating racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination,” and stated that Sarver’s behavior was “unacceptable and in conflict with our values.”

“In light of the findings of the NBA’s investigation, we will not renew our sponsorship should Robert Sarver remain involved with the Suns organization, after serving his suspension,” Schulman added.

He vowed that PayPal would remain supportive of the Suns’ team, its players, and the “experienced and diverse talent now leading the organization.”

This includes coach Monty Williams, franchise general manager James Jones, assistant general manager Morgan Cato, and senior vice president of people and culture Kim Corbitt, who are all black.

As shown by the investigation, Sarver “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns,” although it should be noted that the independent lawyers hired by the NBA to conduct the probe didn’t find that Sarver had “used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate.”

Sarver is also facing opposition within the Suns organization after Vice Chairman Jahm Najafi said there should be “zero tolerance” on lewd, misogynistic and racist conduct in any workplace, demanding that Sarver should resign.

Suns guard Chris Paul and Los Angeles Lakers rival LeBron James have also said the league’s sanctions could have been more stringent, and the current executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), Tamika Tremaglio, revealed to ESPN that the union “absolutely” wishes to see Sarver thrown out of the league.

“While we understand that there has been a thorough investigation and we’re very pleased that the NBA was able to follow through on that because that’s clearly something that we want to see happen, we also want to make it very clear that we do not want him back in a position where he will be impacting our players and those who serve our players on a daily basis,” Tremaglio explained as part of a televised interview.

Should Sarver indeed be ousted from the NBA, his trajectory would echo that of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

In 2014, Sterling was banned for life after being recorded using racist language in a private conversation which forced the sale of the Clippers, which are currently owned by Steve Ballmer.

In addition to the Suns, Sarver also owns the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA but is not allowed to go near any facilities in the women’s or men’s elite basketball leagues as part of his ban.

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