Sports jumps on PPP bandwagon, but big leagues take a pass

FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2017, file photo, former NBA player and players union deputy Roger Mason, left, listens as entertainer Ice Cube, right, announces the launch of the BIG3, a new 3-on-3 professional basketball league, in New York. Hundreds of sports-related businesses got in line for the government-funded Payroll Protection Plan designed to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the four North American major sports leagues  the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball  applied, but both Major League Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League were represented. Rapper Ice Cube's 3-on-3 basketball league says it returned almost half of the $1.6 million it received, but givebacks were rare. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2017, file photo, former NBA player and players union deputy Roger Mason, left, listens as entertainer Ice Cube, right, announces the launch of the BIG3, a new 3-on-3 professional basketball league, in New York. Hundreds of sports-related businesses got in line for the government-funded Payroll Protection Plan designed to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the four North American major sports leagues the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball applied, but both Major League Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League were represented. Rapper Ice Cube's 3-on-3 basketball league says it returned almost half of the $1.6 million it received, but givebacks were rare. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Rapper Ice Cube, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and longtime boxing promoter Bob Arum led a cavalcade of sports leagues, federations, businesses and teams that navigated a federal loan program designed to help small firms cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Data released Monday showed hundreds of thousands of Paycheck Protection Program recipients across a wide range of industries, and sports-related businesses were well represented. However, none of the four major North American sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball — were among the businesses that applied, according to the data.

Big 3 Basketball LLC, a Los Angeles-based 3-on-3 basketball league co-founded by Ice Cube, received $1.6 million and returned $700,000, Jeremy Watkins, a spokesman for the company, told The Associated Press. The remaining $600,000 was used to pay coaches and players for this season and ensure the league could play its 2021 season, Watkins said.

At least four Major League Soccer teams tapped the PPP program, according to the data: D.C. United and Inter Miami were approved for loans in the $1 million to $2 million range, while Orlando City and the Seattle Sounders each applied for between $2 million and $5 million.

Because the federal government released loan amounts in ranges, it wasn’t possible to tell exact amounts. The data showed businesses that applied for and received loans, though some may not ultimately have taken the funds.

The National Women’s Soccer League, which made headlines last weekend after a majority of players in the Challenge Cup tournament took a knee during the national anthem, applied for and received between $1 million and $2 million and reported that the money was used to support 213 employees.

An AP survey completed in May found 32 U.S. Olympic sports organizations — about 70% of all federations — had applied for PPP loans. Among those listed in the government’s data drop were the U.S. Figure Skating Association and USA Softball, which did not respond to the survey.

The requests for federal money shredded the long-held and distinctly American tradition of not relying on taxpayers to fund the pursuit of Olympic medals. But as one official explained at the time, “The sports organizations we work with closely are feeling revenue pain. And it’s immediate.”