Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has been suspended one year and fined $10 million by the NBA. The punishment comes as a result of the league’s investigation into the Suns franchise.
In the announcement, the NBA said its investigation found that during his time with the Suns and Mercury, Sarver used the N-word at least five times “when recounting the statements of others” and there also were “instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees.” Sarver is fined $10 million, the maximum permitted by the NBA Constitution & By-Laws. The NBA will donate these funds to organizations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace.
The NBA commissioned an investigation after ESPN published a story in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during the 17 years Robert Sarver has owned the Suns.
Based on the findings of the independent investigation, including those related to Sarver’s workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies, the NBA today has taken the following actions:
Sarver is suspended from the Suns/Mercury organization for a period of one year, during which time he will not:
• Be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility
• Attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including games, practices, or business partner activity
• Represent the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity
• Have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury
• Have any involvement in the business, governance, or activities of either the NBA or WNBA, including attending or participating in meetings of either league’s Board (and their associated Board committees).
• Sarver must, during his suspension, complete a training program focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace.
Additionally, the Suns/Mercury organization must fulfill a series of requirements for workplace improvements set forth and monitored by the NBA. These requirements, among other things, include:
• Retaining an outside firm to evaluate and make recommendations with respect to workplace training programs, policies and procedures, and hiring and compensation practices — with a focus on fostering a diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace.
• Conducting regular and anonymous workplace culture surveys and responding to survey results with specific action plans.
• Immediately reporting to the league any instances or allegations of significant misconduct by any employee.
• For a period of three years, providing the league with regular reports related to steps taken by the organization to address these requirements.
• Following league direction for remediation/improvement of workplace issues if/as they arise.
“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “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.
“I am hopeful that the NBA community will use this opportunity to reflect on what this great game means to people everywhere and the values of equality, respect and inclusion that it strives to represent. Regardless of position, power or intent, we all need to recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior. On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report. We must do better.”
The report of the independent investigation is available here: https://www.wlrk.com/phoenix-suns-report/.