PayPal said Friday that the company will no longer sponsor the Phoenix Suns if owner Robert Sarver remains part of the franchise when his suspension ends.
And the National Basketball Players Association later made its stance clear, with executive director Tamika Tremaglio telling ESPN that NBA players want Sarver banned for life.
PayPal said its current partnership deal with the Suns ends after the coming 2022-23 season, meaning it will expire during Sarver’s one-year suspension from the NBA. Sarver was suspended this week, plus fined $10m, after an investigation showed a pattern of lewd, misogynistic and racist speech and conduct during his 18 years as owner of the Suns.
In a statement, PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman pointed to his company’s “strong record of combatting racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination” and said Sarver’s conduct is “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 said.
Schulman said PayPal will remain supportive of the team, its players “and the experienced and diverse talent now leading the organization”, including coach Monty Williams, general manager James Jones, assistant general manager Morgan Cato and senior vice president of people and culture Kim Corbitt.
Williams, Jones, Cato and Corbitt are Black. The investigation into Sarver showed he “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns”, though it noted that the independent lawyers hired by the NBA to conduct the probe made “no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate”.
PayPal’s statement came one day after Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi called for Sarver to resign, saying there should be “zero tolerance” for lewd, misogynistic and racist conduct in any workplace. Some players, including Suns guard Chris Paul — a past president of the National Basketball Players Association — and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, also have said the NBA’s sanctions of Sarver did not go far enough.
Those statements from Paul and James came Wednesday, hours after NBA commissioner Adam Silver detailed some of his reasons for deciding a suspension and fine were the proper sanctions. On Friday, Tremaglio told ESPN the union “absolutely” wants Sarver ousted from 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 said in a televised interview.
PayPal is based in San Jose, California. The technology platform and digital payments company also has been a partner for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a Spanish soccer team, both owned by Sarver.