By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers returned a loan obtained through the U.S. government's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the team confirmed on Monday, after learning that funds in the federal program had been depleted.
The loans were intended to help smaller businesses with no more than 500 employees cover employee payroll and rent, with large sectors of the U.S. economy frozen amid coronavirus lockdowns and social distancing mandates.
"The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program," the team confirmed to Reuters. "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 16-time NBA Finals champions, one of the most valuable teams in the league according to Forbes, had received a reported $4.6 million loan through the program.
The Lakers' decision comes as some large, publicly traded U.S. companies face backlash for obtaining aid from the program through a loophole, with a handful including Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc <RUTH.O> and Shake Shack <SHAK.N> returning the loans.
The NBA season has been placed on hold indefinitely since March, with other major North American leagues, including Major League Baseball, seeing their seasons upended due to coronavirus provisions mandating social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; editing by Jonathan Oatis)