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Did PayPal just threaten the Phoenix Suns over Robert Sarver?

A bold move on the company’s part, as it becomes clearer and clearer that fans, staff, players and now even sponsors are not willing to tolerate Robert Sarver anymore.

Logo de los Suns
Michael GonzalesNBAE via Getty Images

The move from the digital payment platform, comes on the back of NBA stars demanding more severe punishment and the franchise’s own minority owner, calling for Robert Sarver’s resignation.

Him or Us: PayPal gives the Suns a Robert Sarver ultimatum

If the Phoenix Suns would like to continue benefiting from a sponsorship deal with PayPal, then it will depend entirely on whether Robert Sarver is still owner. That’s the message coming from the payment platform according to reports on Friday. A longtime sponsor of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury - the company whose patch is on the Suns’ jersey - PayPal has issued a statement in which they make it abundantly clear that they will not renew their sponsorship deal with the Suns, following Sarver’s one-year suspension from the league along with a $10 million fine. To be clear, the deal which was said to be worth $3 million a season, is set to expire at the end of the 2022-23 season. Sarver’s ‘punishment’ of course, comes after he was found to have made racist and misogynistic remarks in the work place on multiple occasions.

“PayPal is a values-driven company and has a strong record of combatting racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination,” PayPal said in a statement. “We have reviewed the report of the NBA league’s independent investigation into Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and have found his conduct 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.” Interestingly, Kia - another longtime Suns partner - issued a statement of their own on Friday, however, their stance appeared to be far less combative than PayPal’s, as they indicated their intention to respect the “NBA and WNBA’s position.”

What has happened with Robert Sarver so far?

In case you’ve not been following, the situation surrounding Robert Sarver went from bad to nasty following an article from ESPN last year. In the article Sarver’s misconduct was well laid out. Among a wide array of allegations, the Suns majority owner was said to have engaged in racist and misogynistic behavior, while also demeaning and threatening various employees. An independent investigation would later be launched and from that, we would learn that Sarver had used the N-word at least five times, demeaned and bullied female employees and even made inappropriate physical contact with male employees. As mentioned above, the league would finally ban Sarver for one year while fining him $10 million. As things stand, he can return for the 2023-24 season and until then vice chairman Sam Garvin will act as the franchise’s interim governor.

If Donald Sterling had to sell, then why not Robert Sarver?

Though the official process as far as the league is concerned may now be over, the reality is, things appear to be just getting started. Stars LeBron James and the Suns own Chris Paul, have demanded a harsher punishment, while Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi has even called for his resignation. In addition to that, Najafi even went as far as to suggest, that he should be forced to sell his stake in the franchise. This of course, brings us to an interesting point.

Fans will recall, it was back in 2014 when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught up in a similar situation. Indeed, audio and video of Sterling making racist remarks about Black people were leaked to the public. Ultimately, after a series of independent investigations and a whole lot of testimony, Sterling was forced to sell his share in the Clippers. This of course, begs the question as to why the NBA has not acted in the same manner this time around. Though we may not have the answer to that question just yet, rest assured there is likely to be more to this story before the dust finally settles.


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