Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver says he will sell the NBA club after a $10 million fine and a one-year ban for racist and misleading statements and harsh workplace issues that included bullying
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has been fined $10 million and banned from the NBA for a year over racist and misogynistic remarks and workplace issues, he said Wednesday he would sell the team.
After the sanctions were imposed last week, NBA Players Association president Tamika Trimaglio called for Sarver to be banned for life, and NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul declared the penalties were not severe enough.
PayPal, its main sponsor, said it would not renew its agreement with the team if Sarver was still involved and Suns Vice President Jahm Najafi called for Sarver’s resignation.
“In our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear…whatever I have done, or can still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” Sarver said in a statement.
“For these reasons, I am beginning the process of finding buyers for the Suns and (NBA) Women’s Mercury.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver welcomed Sarver’s decision.
“I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Silver said in a statement. “This is the right next step for the organization and society.”
Silver had said when the sanctions were announced he did not believe the abuse rose to the level of forcing Sarver, the Suns’ managing partner, to sell the club, as happened in 2014 with former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling over racist remarks. .
Los Angeles Lakers star James, the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, also expressed his delight at the news, tweeting, “I’m so proud to be part of a league committed to progress!”
Announcing the sale, Sarver declared it “the best course of action for everyone”.
Sarver was banned and fined after a 10-month investigation into his 18-year tenure at the Suns.
The NBA had commissioned an investigation in the wake of ESPN’s report on the club’s “toxic” work environment.
Investigators found Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in the team and association rules and policies.”
“This behavior included the use of insensitive racial language; unequal treatment of female employees; sexual statements and behavior; and harsh treatment of employees that at times constituted bullying.”
Sarver said Wednesday that he believes the one-year suspension will give him time to make up.
“The words I deeply regret now overshadow the nearly two decades of building organizations that have brought people together,” Sarver said.
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I had expected the commissioner’s one-year suspension to give me time to focus, make up and remove my personal argument from the teams I love and many of my fans.”
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But he said the swift and harsh condemnation of him by players, sponsors and executives suggested that would be impossible.
“I don’t want to be a distraction,” Sarver said. “I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the staff, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the National Basketball Association and the NBA.”
Investigators, from the law firms Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, said several witnesses told them Sarver’s aggressive behavior often appeared intended “only to provoke a reaction from employees — to embarrass them or assert dominance.”
They added that the investigation “does not conclude that Sarver’s behavior was motivated by racial or gender hostility.”
However, calls were swift to have Sarver permanently eliminated from the league, with James saying the NBA “definitely got it wrong on that”.