NBA suspends Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, fines him $10 million after investigation finds workplace misconduct

the The NBA suspended Robert Sarver on Tuesdayowner of the Suns Phoenix and Mercuryfor a year and hit him with a record $10 million fine after an investigation uncovered racist and sexist conduct in the workplace, authorities said.

For the next year, Sarver will not be able to access all NBA and WNBA buildings, “including offices, stadiums or practice facilities,” according to a league statement.

He also will not be allowed to participate in any NBA or WNBA event, represent the team in any way, participate in any team business or basketball operations, or play any role in the governance of the league, the NBA said.

The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed under league rules, the NBA said, and is the largest financial penalty ever imposed on a person in professional basketball history.

The league investigation was sparked by a Nov. 4 ESPN story cchronic longstanding accusations of racism and misogyny within the Phoenix basketball operation.

The NBA commissioned a New York-based law firm, Watchell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, to lead the Sarver investigation, and investigators interviewed 320 people, including current and former team employees.

Sarver, team management and employees “fully cooperated with the investigative process,” according to the NBA.

Racial Slurs, Sexist Comments, and Harassment

The investigation found that Sarver, who has been the franchise’s managing partner for 18 years, “on at least five occasions” repeated “the N-word when counting statements by others.”

He was also found to have “engaged in instances of unfair conduct toward female employees, made many comments related to sex in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women,” the NBA found.

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends the WNBA Finals on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix.
Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends the WNBA Finals on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix.File by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NBA executive also “engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees” that “constituted bullying,” the league found.

“The statements and conduct outlined in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

Repeated racial slurs, repeated warnings not to wear them

The report details all five allegations of Sarver’s use of the N-word, although the team owner “does not recall ever saying the N-word, except in connection with the 2012 or 2013 team-building exercise.”

  • During a 2004 meeting with a free agent, Sarver allegedly used the racial slur while recalling that a black coach or player used the term when he was in college, at least three witnesses told investigators. An attendee “made a joke to change the subject and defuse tension” and a witness “told Sarver that he could never say the N-word, even when he was quoting someone else,” the report says.
  • At a team-building feature in 2012-13, a black player used that word and Sarver repeated it, prompting a team representative to tell the owner “he couldn’t use that word,” according to the NBA findings. .
  • Sarver complained that a black Golden State Warriors player used the N-word during a 106-100 win over the Suns on October 30, 2016, but did not receive a technical foul. He allegedly used the word when he complained about umpires to a Suns coach, who was black. He also “sent a contemporaneous email to the League office complaining of in-game officiating, in which (among several examples of on-field actions he claimed were improperly officiated) purported to quote the Warriors player saying the N word spelled with an ‘a’ at the end,” the probe revealed.
  • And on at least two occasions between 2010 and 2017, the report found that Sarver used the N-word when repeating what a family member of a black player allegedly said while boarding a team plane: “White people out front, [N-words] in the back,” according to the NBA report.
  • The NBA investigation was unable to confirm a detail of ESPN’s report, when Sarver allegedly said in 2013 that he preferred to hire black coaches, “These [N-words] need a [N-word].”

Memories of NBA action against Donald Sterling

silver head league since early 2014might be best known for the action he took months at work when vetoed then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for a series of racist comments made by the Southern California real estate mogul.

“We believe that the result is correct, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the exhaustive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to uphold the standards in the NBA workplaces,” Silver continued.

“It is my hope that the NBA community will take this opportunity to reflect on what this great game means to people everywhere and the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion that it strives to represent.”

Sarver apologizes: ‘I take full responsibility’

Sarver said he disagreed with some aspects of the NBA report, but apologizes nonetheless.

“Good leadership requires responsibility. For the Suns and Mercury organizations, that starts with me,” he said in a statement.

“While I do not agree with some of the details of the NBA report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees. I take full responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry to cause this pain and mistakes.” . at trial are not consistent with my personal philosophy or values.

Despite the league’s findings, Sarver insisted his franchise values ​​diversity and inclusion.

“I accept the consequences of the NBA’s decision. This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate my ability to learn and grow as we continue to build a work culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued,” the owner continued. of the team.

“I am extraordinarily proud of the Suns and Mercury organizations and the record we have built for diversity, inclusion and giving back to the community. It means a lot to me that our dedicated and hard-working employees have made Phoenix a basketball destination, for both players as fans.”

Suns Legacy partners LLC, the entity that manages and operates the Suns and Mercury, also said it accepted the NBA’s findings. – but suggested that much of the bad behavior was not in recent years.

“As the NBA acknowledged, we fully cooperated with the NBA investigation, which spanned a period of eighteen years, including encouraging current and former employees to participate,” the management group said.

“The NBA’s findings regarding the organization focus, for the most part, on historical issues that have been addressed in recent years, including through significant improvements to our workplace compliance program.”

Suspension occurs when the suns rise in the west

The Phoenix Suns are worth approximately $1.8 billion and are the 18th most valuable franchise in professional basketball, according to the latest Forbes analysis.

The suns recorded a franchise record 64 wins in this past campaign 2021-22 and it is expected that to be an elite team again this season.

The WNBA’s Mercury struggled to go 15-21 this season, having to play centerless star Brittney Griner, who remains in Russian custody.

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