By Barry Janoff
September 21, 2022: Robert Sarver, who last week was suspended from his role as managing partner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury for one year and fined $10 million after an NBA investigation that he abused workplace standards , said today that it has started the process to sell the two teams.
“As a man of faith, I believe in the atonement and the path to forgiveness,” Sarver said through teams.
“I was hoping that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would give me time to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.
“But in our current unrelenting climate, it has become painfully clear that this is no longer possible – that any good I have done, or can still do, is outweighed by things I’ve said in the past.
“For these reasons, I am beginning the process of looking for buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
Sarver has been the majority owner of Suns and Mercury since 2004.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said through the league: “I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. This is the right next step for the organization and the community.”
After the NBA revealed its suspension and fine to Sarver, various factions spoke out about what they saw as the lack of severity in the punishment.
Players who have spoken out include Chris Paul, who is entering his third season with the Suns and is also the former president of the NBA Players Assn.; LeBron James and Draymond Green.
Jahm Najafi, the minority owner of the Suns and the team’s second-largest shareholder, has called for Sarver’s resignation.
The WNBA Players Association has contacted WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and Silver requesting a meeting to express their dissatisfaction with the punishment.
PayPal, the sponsor of the Suns jersey patch, said it would not renew its alliance with the team when it expires after the 2022-23 season if Sarver remained the owner.
These and other moves apparently made it clear to Sarver that he had to separate himself from the teams.
“I don’t want to be a distraction to these two teams and the people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans all over the world,” said Sarver. “I want the best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA.
“This is the best course of action for everyone.
“In the meantime, I will continue to work to become a better person and continue to support the community in meaningful ways.”
The NBA fine and suspension followed a months-long independent investigation that found, according to the NBA, Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards as reflected in team and league rules and policies.” .
According to the league, “This conduct included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; statements and conduct related to sex; and harsh treatment of employees that sometimes constituted bullying”.
At the time, Silver said that “the statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are concerning and disappointing” but that the league “does not have the right to take your team away”.
The investigation was launched by the NBA following the publication of an ESPN.com article on November 4, 2021 regarding Sarver’s statements and conduct and issues related to the teams’ workplace,
The NBA commissioned an independent investigation by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
The NBA said it would donate the $10 million fine to “organizations committed to addressing race and gender issues inside and outside the workplace.”
The Suns/Mercury organization has yet to meet a series of requirements for workplace improvements established and monitored by the NBA.
NBA suspends Suns Sarver, fined $10 million for racial and sexual misconduct
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