phoenix suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver’s guilty admissions to ESPN in November 2021 warranted a lifetime ban from the NBA on its own merit. That he received a one-year suspension following Tuesday’s confirmation of numerous additional allegations of racism, misogyny and other oppressive behavior is more than a travesty.
No NBA employee outside of the property could survive the sheer volume of wrongdoing uncovered by a 10-month investigation into Sarver’s conduct by the independent law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. We shouldn’t draw any conclusion other than the NBA’s willingness to excuse abuses of power based on one’s financial position in the league, a far more dangerous precedent than Sarver’s ejection might have been.
Article 13D of the NBA constitution specifies that team owners can be fired by a three-fourths vote of their teammates if they “fail or refuse to comply.” [their] contractual obligations with the Association, its Members, Players or any other third party in such a way as to adversely affect the Association or its Members”.
nowhere the NBA’s three-page statement or the companion 43-page investigative report In announcing Sarver’s one-year suspension and $10 million fine Tuesday, such a vote was mentioned, despite a plethora of corroborating evidence detailing the Suns’ owner’s adverse effect on the league and its members.
Sarver admitted through lawyers to ESPN in November that he used the N-word in a conversation that quoted a player, shared a photo of his wife in a bikini with executives, asked a player if he shaves his genitals and put pants on a player. an employee in front of more than 60 co-workers. at a charity event. In a series of often contradictory statements, his attorneys denied many more allegations that the NBA investigation has since confirmed.
Video published by Sports Illustrated in November a sexually explicit “roast” Sarver speaking at a memorial for the Suns’ late minority owner, Dick Heckmann, simply illustrated the atmosphere he created in the organization. Accusations corroborated by 320 interviews and 80,000 documents over the last 10 months reveal a far greater toxicity and hostility that will permeate the Suns as long as Sarver owns the team.
According to the investigation, “Sarver said the N-word while repeating or purporting to repeat a Black person on at least five occasions during his tenure,” at a 2004 free-agent recruiting pitch, during a 2012 team-building exercise, or 2013., after a 2016 loss to the Golden State Warriors and at least twice more in recounting an incident involving a player’s family member, despite being warned on multiple occasions, including the first instance of this guy, who “could never say the N-word, even when quoting someone else”.
Once, and you may be able to follow the independent law firm’s conclusion that “the investigation does not conclude that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animosity.” Five times, after asking him not to repeat the word? That is deliberate racism, and we shouldn’t be afraid to call it by his name.
Ditto Sarver repeatedly telling a black coach, “I hate diversity.” He mischaracterized the incident to investigators, implying that he was referring to “diversity of thought,” but “meeting participants reasonably understood that the coach was advocating racial diversity in the organization, and that Sarver responded to that advocacy in a deliberately contrary way. ”, according to the firm’s research report.
As for gender-based animosity, there’s even less room for interpretation.
According to the investigation, Sarver threatened a pregnant employee’s role in the organization because her “baby needs her mom, not her dad,” and then called a meeting with a lawyer who informed the employee that the owner “doesn’t I had done nothing wrong.” Six contemporaneous emails confirmed that Sarver’s yelling brought an employee to tears, to which she replied, “Why are all the women here crying so much?” After that incident, she called a women’s meeting and urged employees at her bank to tell members of the Suns organization “how to handle Sarver’s demands” and not “cry so much.”
“The investigation substantiated six other reports of Sarver making comments that witnesses reasonably perceived as demeaning toward female employees,” the firm’s report said. However, is there no gender-based animus?
Eight witnesses attested to “crude” statements about Suns dancers “crossing[ed] the line.” He allegedly commented on an employee’s breast augmentation. More than 10 witnesses witnessed similar incidents.
Perhaps the researchers concluded that the environment was equally hostile for all employees.
Dozens of interviewees recalled cases where he made sexually explicit comments during meetings. “On at least 20 other workplace occasions throughout his tenure, Sarver made crude references to sex or sexual anatomy, or joked with sexual analogies.” He sent pornographic material to male employees and unnecessarily “exposed his genitalia to a male employee who was on his knees,” according to the report.
According to the report, Sarver also “made repeated lewd comments about the sexual activities of at least one NBA player’s partner,” “made joking references to procuring women for NBA players to have sex with,” “made comments about the sexual orientation of female employees”. and same-sex relationships that witnesses reasonably perceived as offensive” and “made crude comments about the size of Suns players’ genitalia.”
“In another instance, when the Suns were recruiting a free agent in 2015, Sarver made a joke that the team should have players impregnate local Phoenix strippers to make them feel connected to the area, giving the Suns a potential advantage in recruiting free agents,” the report determined.
This is serial sexual harassment. call it what it is.
The NBA suspended former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist comments you made in privately recorded conversations that were made public. There is no known tape of Sarver’s repetition of the N-word, and the league could argue that Sterling’s comments were more overt, but what level of racism is the NBA prepared to tolerate from someone who also repeatedly sexually harasses his teammates? employees?
There’s no arguing that the culture Sarver has created in the Suns organization won’t negatively affect current team employees. Dozens did not appear publicly before ESPN’s Baxter Holmes exposed toxic team conditions, and many feared repercussions if they did. It’s not known how they would respond if Sarver’s behavior persists upon his return, especially now that they know he only faces a fine amounting to 0.5% of his team’s valuation rather than lose his ownership interest.
The sum of the 10-month investigation was confirmation that you can survive, in the report’s own words, “workplace misconduct…involving the use of racially insensitive language, including the N-word; engaging in unfair conduct toward female employees; making sex-related comments; and treating employees in an aggressive and demeaning manner,” provided he has enough money to become one of the 30 NBA owners.
Is Robert Sarver really someone the league wants to represent them? We should all be wondering why three-quarters of NBA team owners aren’t opposed to his abuse of power, if not out of fear of losing theirs.
– – – – – – –