The National Basketball Association on Tuesday suspended Phoenix Suns owner and Mercury owner Robert Sarver, one year after completing an investigation into allegations he used racist and misogynistic language in the workplace.
Law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, which interviewed 320 people and evaluated more than 80,000 documents, concluded that Sarver “clearly violated common workplace standards” including “the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees and related sayings and behavior” sex; and the harsh treatment of employees that sometimes constituted bullying.”
During his suspension, Sarver cannot be located at any NBA or WNBA facility, office area, or training facility. He cannot attend any league events or represent Phoenix Suns or Phoenix Mercury in any capacity. He must not be involved in the business operations of the teams.
Sarver must complete a training program that “focuses on respect and appropriate behavior in the workplace.”
The owner was also fined $10 million, the maximum allowed by the NBA constitution.
“The investigation does not conclude that Sarver’s behavior was motivated by racial or gender hostility,” Wachtel, Lipton Rosen, and Katz said.
The Suns released the following in response to the owner’s comment:
– Phoenix Suns September 13, 2022
Sarver’s legal representatives have issued a statement below:
An independent investigation by the National Basketball Association (NBA) confirmed that none of Mr. Sarver’s actions or comments were based on racist, biased or misogynistic intent. These findings came after hundreds of interviews with witnesses and a review of thousands of documents – including eighteen years of emails and personal text messages from Mr. Sarver. The league also asserted that there was no evidence, whatsoever, to support many of the accusations in ESPN reporting from November 2021. Finally, the league recognized that the Suns organization began improving its human resources department and workplace culture long before the NBA investigation began.
Sarver released a personal statement on Tuesday:
Good leadership requires accountability. For Suns and Mercury organizations, this starts with me. While I do not agree with some of the details of the NBA report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our staff. I take full responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry for causing such pain, and these errors of judgment are not in keeping with my personal philosophy or with my values.
I accept the consequences of the NBA’s decision. This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate the ability to learn and grow as we continue to build a work culture in which every employee feels comfortable and appreciated.
The full report of Wachtel, Lipton Rosen and Katz It can be viewed here.
The law firm said the Suns and Sarver cooperated with the investigation, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported The owner was “unacceptable for the idea he deserves” with fines and suspensions.
The NBA opened its investigation into the Sarver and the Suns case on November 4, 2021, after ESPN article written by Baxter Holmes highlights allegations of racist language and misogynistic comments by Sarver. Holmes said more than 70 people were interviewed for the piece.
In a statement issued after the story was published, Sarver said he “welcomed” the league to the investigation, “which may prove our only outlet to clear my name and the reputation of the organization of which I am so proud.”
The law firm’s findings concluded that Sarver “on at least five occasions during his tenure (as owner) … repeated the N-word when listing others.”
The main findings also stated that he “engaged in unfair behavior towards female employees … made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women, and on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical behavior towards male employees.”
It also found that Sarver insulted employees, including by “yelling and swearing at them”.
Among those recorded with tales of allegations in the original ESPN story were former head coach Earl Watson, assistant coach Corliss Williamson and player Taylor Griffin, all of whom are black.
According to ESPN’s initial story, some of the 20-member ownership group for The Suns considered ways to oust Sarver during his first decade of ownership, which began in 2004.
“The level of misogyny and racism is beyond all bounds,” one Suns owner said of Sarver. “It’s embarrassing as an owner.”
“He’s not ignorant,” said another member of the Sarver behavior group. “He does it because of strength.”
Former co-owner and general manager Steve Kerr, former chief of basketball operations Lon Babe and current chief financial officer Jim Pittman spoke out formally to deny that they saw evidence of indiscretion.
Specific allegations include anonymous employees alleging that Sarver hired former interim coach Lindsey Hunter in place of Dan Magerley’s racially motivated assistant. Use explicit language while doing this.
“these [N-words] need a [N-word]Sarver told the employee of his predominantly black team, according to the executive.
Sarver again mentioned race as the reason the team hired Watson as head coach in 2016, as a former Suns basketball executive said: The young black coach can communicate better with black players, Sarver said, and can “speak their language.” “.
The investigation was unable to establish a case of Sarver’s use of that language.
Sources told ESPN that the owner has used racial nicknames on multiple occasions. Watson said he had an exchange with Sarver about not using that language, in which the owner was talking about how Golden State Warriors striker Draymond Green, who is Black, used the N-word.
There are multiple accounts in Holmes’ story alleging that Sarver used sexist language.
Former employees said he asked players about their sexuality and the sexual prowess of his significant other.
“Women don’t have much value,” said a former employee. “Women are property. And I think we are nowhere near where men think they are.”
Unidentified former and current employees said Suns HR workers fear retaliation for pursuing investigations in some cases.