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Friday, July 12, 2024

Suns Owner Robert Sarver Suspended 1 Year, Fined $10M

  • Outside investigation finds Sarver 'engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards.'
  • Probe started after workplace allegations against Sarver were reported by ESPN last year.
Robert Sarver
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver was suspended for a year and fined $10 million after an outside investigation found Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards.”

The league announced the punishment Tuesday and released the a 43-page report by the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz that detailed Sarver’s use of the N-word “on at least five occasions” and “made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees” during his tenure as the owner of the Suns and Mercury. 

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

“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 NBA workplaces.”

NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the NBA’s punishment of Sarver “shameful” in a statement Tuesday night.

“The NBA’s response is shameful,” Johnson said in a statement. “Fining a Billionaire $10M is nothing but a speeding ticket. They have failed to adequately address this man’s history of racism, sexism, and his years-long nourishment of a toxic culture. The fact that the NBA would hand down this so-called ‘punishment’ in the same year we lost a legend like Bill Russell, who fought racism his entire life, only underscores how prevalent racism still is today.”

The investigation was initiated after an ESPN report in November laid out many of the allegations that the NBA’s outside probe confirmed. 

The report spent many pages over the allegations of Sarver using the anti-Black slur, despite being warned by a witness that “he could never say the N-word, even when quoting someone else” after he first uttered it in 2004.

  • That 2004 incident came came as the team was trying to recruit an unnamed free-agent player.
  • He used the N-word again during a team-building exercise that occurred in either 2012 or 2013.
  • He said it again after the Suns played the Golden State Warriors in an October 2016 game.
  • He said it “at least twice” between 2010 and 2017 when he recounted an incident with a player’s family member. 

“The investigation makes no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate,” the report stated.

During the course of the investigation, 320 people were interviewed. That list included 202 current employees, 100 former employees, and 12 minority owners of the Suns.

“I take full responsibility for what I have done,” Sarver said in a statement. “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.”

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