PayPal ending ties with Phoenix Suns if Robert Sarver remains involved after suspension

2022-09-17 09:22:23 By : Mr. Peggy Li

PayPal will not renew its sponsorship with the Phoenix Suns if majority owner Robert Sarver still is involved with the team after his yearlong suspension ends, the company said Friday in a statement.

“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,“ said PayPal CEO and president, Dan Schulman, in the statement.

PayPal's sponsorship of the Suns is set to expire after this 2022-23 season. The partnership began going into the 2018-19 season.

"PayPal is a value-driven company and has a strong record of combating racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination,'' Schulman said in the company statement.

"We have reviewed the report of the NBA's league independent investigation into Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and have found his conduct unacceptable and in conflict with our values."

An independent investigation initiated by the NBA began after ESPN's Nov. 4 report detailed allegations Sarver created a "toxic" environment during his longtime tenure as Suns team owner.

Sarver bought the team in 2004 for a then-record $401 million. According to Forbes, the Suns, as of October 2021, are worth $1.8 billion.

The 10-month investigation concluded Sarver said the N-word multiple times and made inappropriate comments towards women in the workplace. 

Sarver, 60, also majority owner of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, was suspended for one year and fined $10 million for ''workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies'' found in the investigation and ordered to complete workplace behavior training.

His suspension began Tuesday when the NBA announced the findings of the investigation headed by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a New York law firm.

Sarver can't participate in any activities involving the Suns and Mercury beginning Tuesday and is not allowed in any of their facilities.

Last month, the Rev. Al Sharpton called for PayPal to part ways with Sarver while the investigation was near completion on the Suns team owner.

"PayPal has continued to do business with Robert Sarver and is now expanding its business relationship with Mr. Sarver internationally,” Sharpton wrote in an open letter to PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman that appeared in the Aug. 21 edition of The Arizona Republic. 

“In light of these commitments, PayPal can't simply ignore Mr. Sarver’s transgressions.”

On Friday, Sharpton applauded Schulman's stance, but wants the company CEO and president to end ties with Sarver and the Suns now.

"Justice delayed is simply justice denied," Sharpton said in the statement through his National Action Network. "All corporate sponsors have a morality clause in their contracts that allows them to move quickly to terminate a relationship under circumstances such as these. There is no need to wait a year. Sarver must step away immediately."

Sharpton also called for other Suns corporate sponsors — Footprint, Verizon, Coca-Cola, and Gatorade — and more demand Sarver’s immediate removal before the season starts.

Phoenix opens the 2022-23 regular season Oct 19 against Dallas at Footprint Center.

PayPal's statement concluded the company "strongly rejects" Sarver's conduct, but remains supportive of the team, specifically naming head coach Monty Williams, General Manager James Jones, assistant general manager Morgan Cato and senior vice president of people and culture, Kim Corbitt.

Somers: Players, sponsors might have the final say on Robert Sarver's future as Suns owner

This comes a day after Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi, a minority owner with the Suns, called for Sarver to resign as team owner in an "open letter" to the players and employees of the NBA franchise.

"I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans to think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege," wrote Najafi as he is currently out of the country. "Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as vice chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver."

Read more: Read Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi's full statement on Robert Sarver

Sam Garvin, vice chairman and a minority owner of the Suns, was chosen by the team to serve as interim Governor during Sarver's suspension.

The NBA granted Garvin acting authority as team governor while processing his application to serve as interim Governor in place of Sarver. 

The Republic confirmed Garvin's name was submitted to the league.  

Read more: What's next for Suns after NBA actions against owner Robert Sarver?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during his press conference Wednesday following a Board of Governors meeting in New York that he could've suspended Sarver longer, but chose to keep it a year.

"I don’t have the right to take away his team," Silver said. "I don’t want to rest on that legal point because of course there could be a process to take away someone’s team in this league. It’s very involved, and I ultimately made the decision that it didn’t rise to that level."

The $10 million is the most the league could fine Sarver under the NBA constitution and by-laws. Silver said there weren't any discussions to remove Sarver as team owner.

"But to me, the consequences are severe here on Mr. Sarver," Silver continued. "Reputationally, it’s hard to even make those comparisons to somebody who commits an inappropriate act in the workplace in somewhat of an anonymous fashion versus what is a huge public issue now around this person."

The racial element of Sarver's findings draws comparisons to Donald Sterling, the former Clippers owner who was banned for life for his racist comments that were captured in a taped conversation with his then-girlfriend, V. Stiviano.

"This case is very different," Sliver said. "It’s not that one was captured on tape and the other one isn’t, because as we went through this investigation, and what was pointed out in the investigator’s report is Mr. Sarver ultimately has acknowledged his behavior.

"There may be some disagreement around the edges, but it’s not really about a factual dispute here. It’s not Mr. Sarver saying, 'I never said that. What is lost, though, in differentiating between the facts in this situation and Donald Sterling, is the context."

After Silver's press conference, Lakers All-Star LeBron James and Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul took to Twitter to express their frustration and disappointment in the findings and Sarver's punishment.

Sarver vs. Sterling: 2 NBA owners acted badly. Why was just 1 banned for life?

"Read through the Sarver stories a few times now," James tweeted Wednesday. "I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself. I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior."

Paul and James are longtime friends.

"I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right," James tweeted. "There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this ain't it."

Somers: NBA should've taken the Suns away from Robert Sarver

Paul was with the Clippers that 2013-14 season when Sterling was banned for life from the league.

"Like many others, I reviewed the report," Paul tweeted Wednesday night. "I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated.

"I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected."

Paul is entering his third season with the Suns after he and Devin Booker led them to the 2021 finals and the NBA's best record last season.

The 37-year-old veteran point guard was president of the National Basketball Players for eight years. The NBPA issued a statement Wednesday as well with its executive director, Tamika Tremaglio, taking issue with Sarver's behavior.

"Mr. Sarver’s reported actions and conduct are horrible and have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter," she tweeted.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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