As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the world, many sports teams have taken measures to help employees during this difficult time. The Los Angeles Lakers are no exception as senior-level employees took pay cuts and, along with management for the Clippers and LA Kings, and assisted in providing salaries for Staples Center employees.
In late April, news broke that the Lakers were awarded approximately $4.6 million from a federal government plan, according to ESPN. This plan was originally designed to assist small businesses in need. The popular sports organization quickly returned it, however, after realizing there was a shortage of funds to be distributed.
Some were quick to criticize the organization for even applying for one in the first place, but their reaction reflected their embarrassment. “The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program,” the Lakers said in a statement to ESPN. “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 decision to repay the loan sounds like the Lakers we are all accustomed to, the family-run, championship-winning professional organization that captured our hearts 60 years ago when they moved to Los Angeles.
The late great owner Jerry Buss would have demanded we repay the loan, the greatest play-by-play commentator Chick Hearn would have begged we do so and the late Kobe Bryant would have applauded the choice.
At the end of the day, the Lakers are one of the most valuable teams in the world with a net value of close to $4 billion, prior to the coronavirus. They have a lucrative broadcasting deal bringing in $150 million in annual revenue. The storied franchise also has three billionaire partners.
However, the idea that they would apply for a loan is ludicrous and reflects the desperation for businesses to remain afloat during this pandemic. Many organizations around all major sports leagues are struggling to find revenue and keep their members satisfied. Nevertheless, it was shocking to see a powerhouse like the Los Angeles Lakers ask for help.
Out of all the teams to look for money, the Lakers? It would have made sense if they were last in the Western Conference and tanking the season, but not when they currently have the second-best record in the league. This has resulted in more funds and revenue overall for the franchise.
Unlike other huge businesses that would like to expand on their wealth, once the Lakers realized funds had been depleted, they made the right choice of returning it. This shows they truly do care for small businesses around the country, understanding that it is a much bigger struggle for them.
While the Lakers were also targets of scrutiny and backlash, returning the loan was undoubtedly the right thing to do. They simply understood small businesses have a deeper struggle to stay afloat than the best sports team in the world. In turn, this also demonstrates the family-run style they have adopted, as the Buss Family has run the day to day operations for close to 40 years, taking pride in being an honorable franchise.
The Lakers will be around for decades to come, but they did what many fail to do so often by repaying this loan: the right thing.
Anthony Gharib can be reached at [email protected]