Rev. Al Sharpton demanding PayPal end relationship with Suns team owner Robert Sarver

Duane Rankin
Arizona Republic

Rev. Al Sharpton remains relentless when it comes to Phoenix Suns team owner Robert Sarver.

The civil rights leader wrote PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman, in an open letter that appeared in the Sunday edition of The Arizona Republic, demanding the billion-dollar digital payment company cease its relationship with Sarver, the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury and Spanish soccer club Real Club Deportivo Mallorca.

“As someone who has dedicated my life to fighting injustice and speaking out against hate in all its forms, it is my duty and responsibility to call out such hypocrisy and to call on PayPal to uphold the values for which it proclaims to stand,” Sharpton wrote.

The Sarver investigation began in November of last year after an ESPN report detailed allegations of racism and misogyny against Sarver, claiming he created a "toxic" work environment within the Suns' organization.

MORE: Robert Sarver disputes ESPN report, calling it 'innacurate, misleading'

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver walks to his seat during the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Footprint Center in Phoenix on April 10, 2022.

“Mr. Sarver’s leadership has been riddled with credible allegations of racism, misogyny, and harboring a toxic work environment,” Sharpton wrote.

The letter to PayPal ran as a full-page ad paid for by the American Sports Accountability Project.

Sharpton pointed out how PayPal committed $535 million to support Black-owned businesses and to fight economic inequality in wake of the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, but the company remains in business with Sarver.

“PayPal has continued to do business with Robert Sarver and is now expanding its business relationship with Mr. Sarver internationally,” Sharpton wrote. “In light of these commitments, PayPal cannot simply ignore Mr. Sarver’s transgressions.”

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman says corporations have a moral obligation to stand up for racial equality and social justice inside their own organizations and in the nation at large.

Floyd died under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a White male, on May 25, 2020. The death sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the world over racial injustice and policing.

“It is time for PayPal to put its money where its mouth is,” Sharpton wrote. “Issuing a press release and writing a big check two years ago is not equivalent to doing the hard work that is required to achieve real change.”

This is the latest action taken by Sharpton as he’s been calling for months for the NBA to remove Sarver as Suns team owner and to speed up its investigation.

ASAP launched its website in March with a #SackSarver hashtag that posted a letter written to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calling for the league to oust Sarver.

Several members of Sharpton’s American Action Network signed the letter that was copied to the Board of Governors, which is comprised of team owners.

Director Spike Lee, left, and journalist Al Sharpton, right, attend the premiere for "Loudmouth" at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center during the 2022 Tribeca Festival on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

ASAP is “committed to bringing accountability to perpetrators of hate speech, abuse, and harassment within the leadership of the American sports industry."

Last month,  Silver said in a news conference the Sarver investigation was near completion after the league had a Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas during NBA Summer League.

Sarver attended the meeting in Vegas.

“I’m not prepared to talk about what the conclusion might be, only to say that we are at the sort of last stage of the investigation,” Silver said.

Silver was asked why the investigation has nearly taken a year.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at the start of the NBA basketball draft on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in New York.

“I can only say that we are talking about almost an 18-year period that the ESPN article covered in terms of his ownership,” Silver said. “Hundreds of current and former employees that were involved over that period. And also ensuring that everyone’s confidentiality, if they asked for it, is met, and ensuring due process is provided to Mr. Sarver as well.”

Sarver openly welcomed an investigation that Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a law firm out of New York, has been conducting.

“So these things, I understand how outsiders can be frustrated and say why do these things take so long,” Silver continued. “But having been involved with many of them, these kinds of big investigations over my time at the league, the most important thing is to get it right and to take the appropriate amount of time to do so.”

The Suns and PayPal agreed to a multi-year partnership going into the 2018-19 season.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reacts to being hit in the head during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

PayPal became the first jersey patch partner for the Suns. The Mercury team jerseys also include a PayPal logo.

The NBA approved jersey sponsorships as part of a three-year pilot program. The partnership included that PayPaul became the "official payment partner" for the Suns, Mercury and RCD Mallorca. 

The Suns (PayPal SixthMan) and Mercury (PayPal X-Factor) brand their season ticket sales with PayPal.

“I reiterate my call for PayPal to end its relationship with Robert Sarver and help hold him accountable for his egregious behavior,” Sharpton wrote in concluding the letter.

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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