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In 2004, Suns owner Robert Sarver used the N word during a meeting to recruit a free agent player. In 2021, Sarver talked about learning what a “sodomy job” is during a Suns business meeting.

For 17 years, Sarver was often a bully, the man who oversaw the Suns with the racist and misogynistic undertones flowing straight from the top. All this and more are detailed in a file 36-page report stems from the NBA’s investigation into franchise By the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

The report found more than 100 employees who said Sarver “violated established standards” of business conduct, but that law sells what employees were dealing with. For example, “Tell a pregnant employee that she will not be able to do her job when she becomes a mother”, “Make a comment to an employee about his genitals” (this happened more than once), email pornography to some other male co-worker, use Sarver the N-word at least five times (although employees were told multiple times this was unacceptable), he frequently swore, and “more than 50 current and former employees have reported that Sarver frequently participated in the scorn and cruel treatment of employees”.

All of this is just the tip of the very annoying iceberg in the report. Almost every detailed incident was something that would make everyone read this straight away.

However, Sarver will still be the owner, operating out of the Phoenix Suns offices a year from now and sitting courtside for the 2023-24 games.

Sarver was suspended by the NBA for a year for creating a hostile work environment, and was fined $10 million – With this money directed to organizations that focus on racial and gender issues in and outside the workplace – but he won’t lose control of the team.

The most shocking partial report was this paragraph:

“Taking the evidence in its entirety, including witness testimony and documents reviewed by investigators, the investigation does not conclude that Sarver’s behavior was motivated by racial or gender hostility.”

Are they joking? How can nearly two decades of such consistent behavior not be motivated by racial or gender-based hostility? Just because Sarver doesn’t recognize it as a hate and thinks his second humor has been misunderstood, doesn’t make it any less egregious, offensive, or racist. Ask the women in the office who was scolding them if they feel hostility.

The NBA chose to easily deal with Sarver. Adam Silver chose to avoid confrontation. The penalties should have been harsher, possibly including losing the team. One year slap on the wrist.

Why wasn’t Sarver forced to sell his team like that Donald Sterling was with the Clippers eight years ago? Why did Sarver happen? Basically the same punishment the Mavericks got for troublesome issues on the part of their businessBut the ones that aren’t related to owner Mark Cuban and haven’t been stretching anywhere for decades?

In Sterling’s case, there was a voiceover (his lover leaked it to TMZ) – in fact, hearing the vile and racist comments from Stirling himself made it even more profound. There is no audio or video of Sarver, and no smoke pistol of the same grade, despite the volume of complaints in the report.

Sterling streaks also appeared during the playoffs, which led to strong reactions from players – Almost including game interruption – He was very public against the owner of the clippers at the time.

Several NBA sponsors — State Farm, Carmax, Kia, Red Bull, and many more — also withdrew from the Clippers and the league after Sterling’s ribbons emerged. The second time the scandal hit the league finish line, Adam Silver acted quickly and decisively.

The Sarver scandal fell into the bloodiest part of the NBA offseason and didn’t see the same level of player involvement and public outrage as the Sterling affair. There was no backlash from the sponsor until this point. Sarver also “takes responsibility” for his actions, which was not a real apology but more remorse than Sterling’s.

Also, don’t forget that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver works for and makes NBA owners happy. Many of them live in greenhouses and do not want to start throwing stones.

If the NBA isn’t going to step up with a penalty that is a real deterrent (and a reflection of the offense), it at least needs to find a way to prevent that from happening in other NBA (and WNBA) franchises. Silver sent a note to the teams in the wake of the Mavericks scandal asking them to clean their homes, but that didn’t happen everywhere, as evidenced by this report.

If the National Basketball Association is going to stand up for its progressive policies and credentials — if it is to claim to stand for diversity, inclusion, and equality — it has to start adhering to these ideals within teams. These cannot be just words.

What can he do? Sam Amick in The Athletic wisely suggests The NBA finds a way for team employees to complain to them about work conditions/situations and conduct an investigation with them, rather than going to the HR team. In Phoenix, people didn’t come forward because they feared retaliation from HR, which was seen as an extension of Sarver’s will rather than something there to protect workers. It may be the case with other teams, the NBA needs an anonymous complaint from.

There may be other steps as well. Owners may not want more periodic oversight of their business, but if they can’t monitor themselves, the NBA has no choice. Not that the NBA itself is blameless here – Sarver and Sterling’s positions lasted for decades before there was a move. this is unacceptable.

The league has to do more. It would take real pressure from players and league sponsors to make this happen – players shouldn’t be the ones having to make the league to its own standards, but here we are.

The NBA was fined and Sarver was suspended, but he did not take steps that would put Fear of God (or Adam Silver) in other owners. It went easy on him despite decades of evidence.

It’s time for the NBA to live up to its words and ideals.

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