PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver has been suspended for one year by the NBA after an investigation into misconduct.
In the investigation, which stemmed from an ESPN report in November 2021, the NBA found that Sarver "engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards as reflected in team and league rules and policies. This conduct included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying.”
The Suns released a statement from Robert Sarver Tuesday, saying:
"Good leadership requires accountability. For the Suns and Mercury organizations, that begins with me. While I disagree with some of the particulars of the NBA’s 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 for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values.
I accept the consequences of the NBA’s decision. This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow as we continue to build a working culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued.
I am extraordinarily proud of the Suns and Mercury organizations and the record we have built concerning diversity, inclusion, and giving back to the community. It means a great deal to me that our dedicated and hardworking employees have made Phoenix a basketball destination – for both players and fans."
Sarver's representatives reportedly released the following background on the investigation, according to the Suns:
"The NBA's independent investigation confirmed that none of Mr. Sarver's actions or comments were based on racist, prejudiced, or misogynistic intent. These findings came after hundreds of witness interviews and the review of thousands of documents-including eighteen years of Mr. Sarver's emails and personal text messages. The League also confirmed that there was no evidence, whatsoever, to support several of the accusations in ESPN's reporting from November 2021. Finally, the NBA recognized that the Suns organization started improving its HR department and workplace culture long before the NBA's investigation began."
Community leaders, sports officials, and others have also reacted to the news of Sarver's suspension.
David Bodzin, a former Suns account executive:
"I find myself immensely disappointed in the leniency of the NBA's suspension that has been handed down. To offer an essential vacation for a minimal fee to an Owner who has officially been found to make racial comments as well as comments that are considered Sexual Harassment, coupled with the toxic environment he helped build throughout the organization is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. I can't imagine such punishment will give any other owners within the league pause to act however they please, now understanding that if it creates a poor environment, this is likely the worst they will receive. This is an injustice to the countless women who suffered for years under Sarver's thumb and my respect for the league has been diminished as a result."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:
“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing. We believe the outcome is the right one, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to upholding proper standards in the NBA workplaces.
I am hopeful that the NBA community will use 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. Regardless of position, power or intent, we all need to recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior. On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report. We must do better.”
Reverend Al Sharpton:
“This morning I received a call from the NBA letting me know about their decision to fine Robert Sarver and suspend him from the league for one year. While I commend the league for taking this step, the report findings clearly show that Mr. Sarver has perpetrated egregious acts of racism and misogyny and should no longer be welcome in the back office or on the sidelines. I encourage the Board of Governors to hold Mr. Sarver fully accountable for his actions, and to vote for his removal from the league in recognition that his behavior does not represent the values of the NBA. I look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Silver and the leadership of the league to fight racism and abuse at all levels, and to lead the American sports community in support of these principles.”
Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself. I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 14, 2022
Raees Mohamed, Corporate attorney with RM Warner:
Raees says he gets weekly calls to help fix workplace culture issues.
He suspects Sarver isn't the only one in question, “It's impossible to be one person. Naturally, there's a team of people not just Robert Sarver,” he said.
With a one-year suspension ahead for Sarver, Raees suggests the Suns and Mercury bring in outside consultants to implement policies to avoid race or misogynistic issues.
And says if Sarver wants to make amends with those he's wronged, he shouldn't be shy to apologize personally.
"Making them know this is not just me trying to move on from this in a PR standpoint this is me taking it seriously, I'm sorry,” he said
In a statement, Sarver did apologize saying in part, "these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values."