By CARMEN COX, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The Los Angeles Lakers received approximately $4.6 million in relief funding from the federal government, but now the team says it has returned the loan.
“The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program,” the Lakers said to ESPN in a statement. “Once we found out the funds from the program had been depleted, we repaid the loan so that financial support would be directed to those most in need. The Lakers remain completely committed to supporting both our employees and our community.”
The team’s move comes amid criticism that several large entities had received federal money while smaller businesses were being denied access to relief funds.
The Lakers initially applied and were approved for relief through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program — a program intended to assist small businesses shut down or impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Having only around 300 employees, the Lakers were technically eligible for the PPP loan to cover salaries and other expenses. But when the program ran out of money after less than two weeks, hundreds of thousands of smaller business were left without access to federal assistance.
Public complaints over the lopsided loan allocations grew louder, prompting some larger relief recipients, the Lakers among them, to repay the loan.
The Lakers is reportedly one of the NBA’s most lucrative franchises. ESPN reports the team’s value prior to the coronavirus outbreak was estimated to be more than $4 billion.
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