New Suns, Mercury Owner Ending NIL Partnership with Michigan State

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In a letter sent to affected Michigan State University athletes, alum Mat Ishbia's February purchase of the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury was cited as the reason the NIL partnership between his mortgage company and the school would be terminated at the end of June.

“As an owner of two professional sports teams, it was asked that Mat/UWM discontinue this NIL partnership to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest,” read the letter, which was provided by a spokesperson for Ishbia's United Wholesale Mortgage.

“UWM and Mat remain dedicated to supporting Michigan State University and the athletic programs and will continue to do so within the guardrails established.”

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, all student-athletes who have NIL agreements with UWM will receive compensation for social media posts through the end of June 2023.

Matt Larson, MSU’s associate athletic director for communications, told the Free Press that it was not the university that asked to end the partnership with the athletes.

“Michigan State athletics is deeply appreciative of Mat Ishbia’s continued support for our department and sport programs,” Larson said in a statement. “Through his gifts, he provides resources for student-athletes, including state-of-the-art facilities and a transformational Spartans for Life Fund which assists with career development and life after athletics.”

According to Chris Solari of the Free Press, UWM agreed in September 2021 to begin providing up to $700 monthly payments to MSU football and men's basketball players to promote the lender with social media posts. A year later, it expanded to women’s volleyball. The Spartans’ women's basketball team also had an offer from UWM but instead took a separate NIL deal with MSU Federal Credit Union.

Ishbia’s purchase of the Suns and Mercury for $4 billion was approved and finalized by NBA owners Feb. 6. The 43-year-old native of Bloomfield and 2003 MSU graduate played men’s basketball for the Spartans from 1999-2002 and was a member of Tom Izzo’s 2000 national championship team.

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