The NBA has suspended Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million after an investigation into allegations of racism and misogyny, the league said Tuesday.
In announcing the punishment, the league said the independent investigation found Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and league rules and policies.”
“This conduct included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; statements and conduct related to sex; and harsh treatment of female employees that at times amounted to intimidation,” he added in a statement.
The NBA commissioned the independent investigation of Sarver, after ESPN published an article in November 2021 citing more than 70 Suns employees who alleged the businessman repeatedly used racially insensitive language and engaged in misogynistic and inappropriate behavior.
Sarver also owns the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA (women’s basketball).
– Sarver apologizes –
“Good leadership requires responsibility,” Sarver said in a statement released Tuesday by the Suns.
“For the Suns and Mercury organizations, that starts with me. While I disagree with some of the details of the NBA report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees.”
“I take full responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry to cause this pain and these errors, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or values, ”he asserted.
The NBA said the $10 million fine is the maximum allowed under the league’s constitution and bylaws and will be donated “to organizations that are committed to addressing issues of race and gender in and outside of the workplace.”
But Sarver escaped the fate of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who in 2014 was banned for life from the NBA after he was recorded using racist language in a private conversation. The league later forced the team to be sold to new owners.
The NBA said the investigation included interviews with 320 people, including current and former Suns employees, as well as Sarver himself.
More than 80,000 documents and other materials, including emails, text messages and videos, were also examined, and the league said Sarver and the clubs fully cooperated with the process.
The investigation found that Sarver “engaged in instances of unfair conduct toward female employees, made comments related to sex in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women, and on several occasions engaged in physical conduct inappropriate towards employees.
In one case cited in the report, Sarver told a pregnant employee that she would not be able to do her job upon becoming a mother because she would be “breastfeeding” and a baby “needs its mother, not its father.”
The investigation also confirmed instances of workplace misconduct by other Suns employees and “a lack of adequate organizational policies and controls.”
Multiple witnesses told investigators that Sarver’s aggressive behavior often appeared to be intended “solely to provoke a reaction from employees, to shame them, or to assert dominance over them,” investigators said in their report.
However, they added that the investigation “does not conclude that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender animosity.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that he found the findings “troubling and disappointing.” But the league noted that most of the employees implicated in the misconduct are no longer Suns employees.
Sarver’s suspension means he will not be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including offices, stadiums or practice facilities.
You also may not attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA events or activities, including games, practices or business partner activities, nor may you participate in club basketball activities.
The league also ordered Sarver to complete a training program “focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace.”