“As a person of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected the one-year suspension from the commissioner to give me time to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love,” said Sarver. “But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that this is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or might still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process to seek buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended Sarver for a year and fined him a maximum of $10 million last week at the conclusion of a lengthy workplace conduct investigation launched in the wake of article from ESPN.com in november Silver, on the other hand, stopped short of issuing a lifetime ban to Sarver, a punishment the commissioner had previously given. former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014 for his racist comments.
Prominent NBA stars such as LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green, as well as National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio, decried Sarver’s behavior and suggested that Silver’s punishment did not go far enough, and PayPal said it would not renew its contract as the Suns’ jersey sponsor after this season if Sarver stayed with the team he has owned since 2004. Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi and civil rights activists such as Reverend Al Sharpton called for Sarver’s resignation, while Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and city. Councilors issued a statement saying they were “appalled” by his behavior and planned to conduct their own investigation.
With the 2022-23 season opening next month and team media scheduled to begin on Sunday, Sarver’s decision to pursue a sale from the Suns was met with league-wide relief based on his strong initial denials of ESPN.comthe accusations of and his reputation for obstinacy. Although he issued an apology after Silver suspended him, Sarver disputed some of the report’s findings and his legal representatives continued to dispute some of the allegations. There were fears that Sarver would dig in, like Sterling, thus creating a protracted power struggle for the future of the Suns and an untenable day-to-day existence.
“I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Silver said in a statement Wednesday. “This is the right next step for the organization and community.”
Silver noted last week that he did not have the power as a commissioner to unilaterally take the Suns of Sarver. Instead, the NBA’s Board of Governors would have had to vote against Sarver by a three-quarters majority, a difficult and time-consuming proposition and one that could have prompted a lawsuit by Sarver. The NBA’s decision to release the investigators’ report, however, exposed Sarver to widespread criticism and outrage. In the past, similar investigative reports have been summarized by the league rather than published in full.
“I’m so proud to be a part of a league committed to progress,” James tweeted Wednesday.
“We thank Mr. Sarver for making a quick decision that was in the best interest of our sports community,” NBPA President CJ McCollum said in a statement.
Investigators from the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz documented a long list of workplace misconduct violations in a 43-page report, including Sarver using the n-word on at least five occasions, repeated examples of sexist behavior and multiple incidents in which Sarver exposed himself to employees
According to witnesses, Sarver used the n-word while recruiting a free agent in 2004, during a team-building exercise in 2012 or 2013, after an October 2016 game against the Golden State Warriors and retelling a story about a player’s family member. said boarding the team’s plane. According to two witnesses, Sarver quoted the family member as saying, “White people at the front, [n-words] in the back.” Investigators found that Sarver, who is White, continued to use the slur for years despite repeated warnings from colleagues that doing so was inappropriate.
Sarver’s transgressions toward female employees included telling one she had to stop working on an assignment because her baby “needs their mom, not their dad,” asking another if she had gotten an “upgrade”—a euphemism for breast augmentation—and telling another that. she had “never seen anything this big” as he prepared to shower in the team’s facilities. In another incident, he reprimanded a female employee for her performance in 2011, protested when she started crying and then held a lunch for four female employees, which was perceived by attendees as a way to toughen them up.
Investigators attributed some of Sarver’s behavior to his “second-time and inappropriate” sense of humor and his “lack of filter,” but they documented incidents that repeatedly crossed the line into harassment. While receiving a “fitness check” from a male employee, Sarver “needlessly dropped his underwear” while the employee knelt in front of him, exposing himself. Sarver also danced “pelvis to pelvis” with a male employee at a holiday party, pulled down a male employee’s pants in front of co-workers during a charity event in 2014 and asked at least one player on the 2009-10 team about personal habits. .
Under the terms of his suspension, Sarver was banned from all NBA and WNBA games and from team facilities, he cannot appear at public events on behalf of the Suns or Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, and he cannot be involved in the business operations of their organizations. or league meetings. Sam Garvin, longtime minority owner of the Suns, replaced Sarver on an interim basis.
“The racist old boys club in professional sports is officially closed,” Sharpton said in a statement. “A new era is upon us where it is intolerable to see black players as property. Sarver’s decision today is the first step in the long road to justice for the Suns and Mercury – the staff, the players and the fans. It is now necessary, that the NBA, both teams, the corporate sponsors and the new owner, whoever they may be, live up to the commitment to root out racism, misogyny and hate.”
During his tenure, Sarver was known as a thrifty – and sometimes combative – owner who struggled to put winning teams on the court after the initial success of the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns, who reached the Western Conference finals in 2005 and 2006. Phoenix missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons from 2011 to 2020 as Sarver cycled through coaches, hired and fired executives and repeatedly struck out in the NBA draft. During one particularly tumultuous stretch, Sarver fired coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-2018 season and then fired his full-time replacement, Igor Kokoskov, after one season.
There were many misadventures along the way. In 2014, Sarver apologized to Suns fans because the San Antonio Spurs chose to rest several stars during a game in Phoenix. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich responded bluntly by saying Sarver should have worn a “chicken suit” during his address. In 2017, Suns are on guard Eric Bledsoe famously tweeted “I don’t want to be here”, a commercial request that he later claimed was a reference to his boredom at a hair salon. Then, in 2019, Sarver is said to have placed live goats in the office of his general director in what was apparently a motivational tactic.
But the arrival in recent years of coach Monty Williams and Paul brought the Suns back to the playoffs and the national stage. Phoenix reached the Finals in 2021 for the first time since 1993, and it won a franchise-record 64 games last season despite the ongoing investigation into Sarver. With a talented roster built around Paul, all-star guard Devin Booker, forward Mikal Bridges and center Deandre Ayton, the Suns enter next season as one of the favorites in the West.
Sarver led a group that bought the Suns for around $400 million in 2004, and recently Forbes rating pegged the franchise’s current value at over $1.8 billion. The sale price valuation of the Suns could exceed $2 billion, as NBA franchises have greatly increased in value in recent years and a new national media rights deal is on the horizon. After the Clippers sold for $2 billion in 2014, the Houston Rockets sold for $2.2 billion in 2017 and the Brooklyn Nets sold the Barclays Center arena for $3.3 billion in 2019. Starting in 2020, smaller market franchises like the Utah Jazz ($1.6 billion) ) and Minnesota Timberwolves ($1.5 billion) produced profitable returns for their longtime owners.