“Our league sure got it wrong,” LeBron James wrote today just hours later NBA Commissioner Adam Silver went in front of the media to try to contain the fallout over what many consider overly lenient sanctions Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver due to his reported sexist, racist and violent behavior towards subordinates.
Perhaps even more crucial, a Suns all-star guard, locker room leader and former president of the NBA Players Association Chris Paul recently released a statement on Twitter that says in part, “I was and am appalled and disappointed by what I read…I think the sanctions have failed to really address what we can all agree was appalling behavior.”
Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am appalled and disappointed by what I read. This behavior especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated.
– Chris Paul (@CP3) September 15, 2022
Paul’s words may carry as much or even more weight than James’ because he was the leader of the Los Angeles Clippers when, in 2014, that team’s owner Donald Sterling was forced to sell the team after being caught on tape doing racist remarks.
This week the league, after a month-long investigation, confirmed details of Sarver’s behavior that were first aired nearly a year ago in November 2021 ESPN. disclosure. That report included instances of Sarver repeatedly using the N-word over decades in front of players, coaches, team staff and even in an email to the league.
According to the NBA’s own findings, Sarver also joked that the team should have players “impregnate local stripers so they feel connected to the area, giving the Suns a potential advantage in free agency recruiting.”
Sarver, according to the NBA, described sexual acts with his wife in front of employees and told one employee that she “would be unable to do her job after becoming a mother,” claiming that she would be busy “breastfeeding” and that “a baby needs its mom, not its father.” After the employee cried in response, Sarver asked why women “cry so much.”
In addition, there were “sex-related comments” directed at female employees, according to the NBA report. Sarver, it is important to note, also owns the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA.
One former Suns basketball executive told ESPN of him in 2021: “There’s literally nothing you could tell me about him from a misogynistic or racial standpoint that would surprise me.”
However, league investigators concluded that there was “no finding that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animosity.” He received a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine. That is the upper limit of a fine allowed by the NBA. But Sarver’s net worth is, on the low end, $400 million and, on the high end, $850 million, according to reports.
League Commissioner Silver said yesterday that, if the independent investigation had found a racial or gender bias, “absolutely that would have affected the bottom line here. But they didn’t find that.” He also that he does not have the power to force Sarver to sell the team, which is technically true.
Many compared Sarver’s remarks to those of former Clippers owner Sterling.
In 2014 Silver, who was only weeks into his job as NBA Commissioner, hammered Sterling with a lifetime ban and fined him $2.5 million. He also asked the other NBA team owners to force Sterling to sell the team, adding that he “will do everything in my power to make sure that happens.” Silver said at the time that it would take a 3/4 vote of owners in favor of forcing Sterling to sell to make it happen, adding confidently, “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to get rid of him.”
In the case of Sterling, there was a massive outcry from figures such as then-president Barack Obama, Lakers great Magic Johnson and Jon Stewart. Many of the Clippers’ corporate sponsors, including such companies as Kia and Carfax, have ended or suspended their relationships with the team.
Not so this time — at least not yet — and Silver was less strident about Sarver’s transgressions.
“I think what we saw in the case of Donald Sterling was blatant racist behavior directed at a select group of people,” the commissioner said this week. “Although it’s hard to know what’s in someone’s heart or their mind, we’ve heard those words… In the case of Robert Sarver, I would say, first of all, we’re looking at the totality of circumstances over an 18-year period in which he owned those teams, and ultimately we made a judgment — I made a judgment — that in the circumstances in which he used that language and that behavior, that even though, as I said, it was indefensible, it’s not strong enough.”
The league’s marquee player disagrees.
“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this is not right,” James wrote on Twitter today. “We hold up our league as an example of our values and this is not.”
Here is James’ full statement:
Read Sarver’s stories a few times now. I have to be honest…Our league must have gotten this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. You all read the stories and decide for yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this is not correct. There is no place for misogyny, sexism and racism in any workplace. It doesn’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We present our league as an example of our values and this is not.
Read Sarver’s stories a few times now. I have to be honest…Our league must have gotten this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. You all read the stories and decide for yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place in this league for that kind of thing
– LeBron James (@KingJames) September 14, 2022
The NBA preseason begins on September 30. The Suns’ first game is on October 5 against – interestingly enough – James’ Los Angeles Lakers.
In 2014, during the Sterling affair, Paul and other Clippers players considered not taking the floor in protest. They chose instead to play for each other, not for Sterling.
While there is no indication of such a possibility at this time, how the situation develops in the next two weeks could have some bearing on that matchup between two of the league’s marquee teams and players and, perhaps, a bigger fallout for Sarver and/or the . connection