A week after being suspended and fined for inappropriate behavior over the years, the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, one of the most competitive teams in the NBA basketball league, decided to leave permanently assignments and ownership, all less than a month from the start of the new season.
On September 13, Robert Sarver, a real estate developer and owner of the Suns for eighteen years, had been suspended for one year from his tenure and fined $ 10 million, the highest penalty available to NBA executives. The sanctions came following the publication of an independent investigation carried out by a law firm on the conduct carried out by Sarver over almost twenty years.
The investigation, commissioned by the league after a long series of reports and after an article Published on ESPN a year ago, he had reconstructed and described in detail over a decade of misconduct in the workplace attributed to Sarver himself or, more generally, to the environment he created. Among the inappropriate behaviors cited in the report were “racist slurs, habitual sexist attitudes and widespread unfair treatment of employees.”
As a result of the investigation, NBA commissioner Adam Silver imposed Sarver the league’s highest fine for an owner, and a one-year suspension from office. To some, however, these sanctions had not seemed enough, including major sponsors like PayPal and some influential NBA players, including LeBron James and Chris Paul, former president of the professional union who plays in the Phoenix Suns.
– Phoenix Suns (@Suns) September 21, 2022
This week Sarver has decided to permanently leave positions and properties, according to him in order not to create distractions around the team, still among the most popular in the championship after being a finalist in 2021 and semifinalist of conference in the past season.
Sarver, however, has also made it clear that he considers the reactions towards him unfair and excessively severe. In the statement announcing the sale of the property, he wrote that the one-year suspension “would have allowed him to make amends and better reflect on himself and his behavior”, but this was not granted to him “in a ruthless climate who does not forgive and ignores all the good things done over the years ».
In fact, Sarver and his organization are credited with supporting the Phoenix Mercury, a women’s team that under its current management has become one of the strongest and most followed in the WNBA, the North American women’s basketball championship. Sarver also defended himself by citing his recent contributions in support of the causes concerning social justice and racism in the United States, themes very present in a reality like that of the NBA where African-American representation is prevalent.
Sarver’s case is reminiscent in many ways that of Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers who in 2014 was suspended for life by the league after some of his racist comments were made public. Then the reactions were much more widespread and, following a medical report that declared Sterling, then 80, “mentally incapable”, the ownership of the team fell under the control of his wife, who quickly approved the sale to the former CEO from Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. In Sarver’s case, the NBA hasn’t responded to who like the New York Times he asked if there was any pressure on the property to put the team up for sale.
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