Suspended owner Robert Sarver says he’s decided to sell Suns, Mercury


Sarver was recently suspended by the NBA for workplace misconduct, including racist speech and hostile behavior towards employees.

Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Robert Sarver says he has begun the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, a move that came just a week after he was suspended by the NBA for workplace misconduct, including racial slurs and hostile behavior toward workers. employees.

The decision was quickly applauded by many – among them NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the National Basketball Players Association and even Sarver’s partners in the ownership group that operates the Suns and Mercury.

Sarver made the announcement on Wednesday, saying selling “is the best way to go”, although he initially hoped he could keep control of the franchises – pointing to his track record which he says paints a drastically different picture of who he is and what he is. that he represents.

“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that this is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” Sarver wrote in a statement. “For these reasons, I am beginning the process of finding buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”

Silver said he “fully” supports Sarver’s decision.

“It’s the right next step for the organization and the community,” Silver said.

Sarver bought the teams in July 2004 for around $400 million, then a record price for an NBA franchise. He is not the sole owner of the Suns and Mercury, but the main one. Suns Legacy Partners LLC, the ownership group, said its work to create a “culture of respect and integrity” would continue.

“As we have shared with our employees, we recognize the courage of those who have come forward in this process to tell their stories and apologize to those hurt,” the partners said.

Assuming no other teams are sold in the interim, this would be the first sale in the NBA since a group led by Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith bought the Utah Jazz in 2021 for around $1.7 billion.

It is unclear whether Sarver set an asking price. Forbes recently estimated the value of the Suns at $1.8 billion. Any new owners would have to be approved by the NBA, which is standard procedure.

An independent report commissioned by the NBA last November — following an ESPN report on Sarver’s conduct at work — took about 10 months to complete. That investigation found that Sarver “said or claimed to repeat the N-word at least five times during his tenure with the Suns,” but added that the investigation “does not conclude that Sarver used this insensitive language. race with the intent to belittle or disparage.”

The study also concluded that Sarver used demeaning language towards female employees, including telling a pregnant employee that she would not be able to do her job after becoming a mother; making inappropriate comments and jokes about sex and anatomy; and yelling at and insulting employees in a way that would be considered bullying “by workplace standards.”

After that report was completed, Silver suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million — the maximum allowed by league rule.

“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that have brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of men’s and women’s professional basketball,” Sarver wrote. “As a man of faith, I believe in the atonement and the path of forgiveness. I expected the commissioner’s one-year suspension to give me time to focus, make amends, and eliminate my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.

Barely a week later, Sarver realized that would not be possible.

His decision comes after a chorus of voices – from players such as Suns guard Chris Paul and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, to longtime team sponsors like PayPal and even the National Basketball Players Association – said that the one-year suspension was not enough.

James weighed in again on Wednesday, shortly after Sarver’s statement became public: “I am so proud to be part of a league committed to progress!” he tweeted.

Retired NBA player Etan Thomas added, also in a tweet: “Sarver is cashing in so it’s not really a punishment for him but he’s really glad he’s gone.”

NBPA President CJ McCollum said the union thanks Sarver “for making an early decision that was in the best interest of our athletic community.”

Suns vice president Jahm Najafi last week called for Sarver’s resignation, saying there should be “zero tolerance” for lewd, misogynistic and racist behavior in any workplace. Najafi, in that same statement, also said he had no intention of becoming the team’s main owner.

“I don’t want to be a distraction to these two teams and the great people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world,” Sarver wrote. “I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my co-owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone. .

Sarver, through his attorney, argued with the NBA during the investigative process that his record as an owner shows a “long-standing commitment to social and racial justice” and that he shows that it has a “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion”. Among the examples Sarver cited were what he described as a league-best 55% minority employment rate in the Suns’ front office and how more than half of coaches and general managers in the Suns he team in his tenure – including current coach Monty Williams and current GM James Jones – are black.


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