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Lakers return $4.6 million from stimulus loan program

FILE - In this March 3, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss sits in the stands prior to an NBA basketball game between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles. The Lakers have repaid a loan of roughly $4.6 million from coronavirus business relief funds after learning the program had been depleted. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers have repaid a loan of roughly $4.6 million from coronavirus business relief funds after learning the program had been depleted.

The Lakers applied for the loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, a part of the federal government’s $2.2 trillion stimulus package. The Lakers’ request was granted in the first round of distribution, but after the fund ran out of money in less than two weeks, the team returned its loan, as did several wealthier business including Shake Shack and AutoNation.

The Lakers issued a statement Monday confirming what happened.

“The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program,” the statement read. “However, 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.”

ESPN first reported the Lakers’ decision.

The Treasury Department issued further guidance for the loan program last week, asking companies not to apply for the funds if they don’t need the cash to survive.

The Lakers qualified for the program because they have only about 300 employees. But the team is thought to be the NBA’s second-most valuable franchise, with Forbes estimating a value of roughly $4 billion.

The 16-time NBA champions play in the nation’s second-largest media market, and their current roster led by superstars LeBron James and Antony Davis was on top of the Western Conference when the NBA suspended play last month.

The Lakers haven’t furloughed or fired any employees during the coronavirus pandemic, and the franchise doesn’t plan to make any cutbacks. The team’s top executives agreed to defer 20% of their salaries until later this year or early next year.

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