Suns, owner Mercury Sarver suspended for 1 year, fined $10M

Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury basketball teams, has been suspended by the NBA for a year after an investigation found him involved in “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies.”

He was also fined $10 million, the maximum allowed by the NBA Constitution and bylaws, the league said in a statement.

The report comes nearly a year after the NBA initially asked a law firm to investigate allegations that Sarver had a history of racist, misogynist and hostile incidents.

These allegations were first detailed in one ESPN story last year. Through his legal team, Sarver denied the allegations to ESPN.

The investigation, according to the NBA, found that Sarver:

  • said the N-word at least five times when he was with Suns/Mercury when “telling someone else’s statement”
  • involved in instances of “unfair behavior” towards female employees
  • made comments related to sex in the workplace
  • making inappropriate comments about female employees and other women’s appearance
  • engaging in inappropriate physical behavior towards male employees
  • involved in demeaning and abusive treatment of employees, including yelling and cursing

“The statements and conduct described in the independent investigation’s findings are troubling and disappointing,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We believe that the result is the right one, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context revealed by the comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to support the correct standards in the NBA.

As a result of his suspension, said NBA Sarver could not attend any NBA or WNBA team facilities; attend or participate in NBA or WNBA activities; represent the Suns or Mercury in any capacity, or have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of either team.

In addition, the NBA said Sarver must complete a training program “focused on respect and proper conduct in the workplace.”

“On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report,” said Silver. “We have to do better.”

Sarver wasn’t the only one whose behavior was scrutinized in the report. Also substantiated in the investigation was “examples of workplace misconduct involved in” by Suns employees not directly related to Sarver. These include examples of racial insensitivity, mistreatment of female employees, inappropriate comments related to sexuality or sexual orientation, and disrespectful communication, the NBA said.

The Suns’ Human Resources function, the report found, was “historically ineffective” and not a reliable source for employees.

However, the report also states that most of the Suns employees involved in this action are no longer employed by the organization.

“In July 2021, the organization hired a new head of Human Resources who, along with other executives, has implemented several positive workplace changes,” the NBA said in a statement. Among these changes are the creation of a confidential hotline, an investigative response team, and additional workplace training.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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