NBA

Suns owner Sarver handed one-year suspension, fined $10m after probe finds workplace misconduct

By Sports Desk September 13, 2022

Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, has been suspended by the NBA for one year and fined $10million after an investigation found he engaged in racist and sexist conduct at the workplace. 

The report was published Tuesday and was initiated after the NBA commissioned a law firm to investigate Sarver's behaviour after ESPN reported last November allegations of racism and misogyny during his 18 years with the Suns.  

The investigators interviewed 320 people, and Sarver, team management and employees "cooperated fully with the investigative process", according to the NBA. 

The investigation found Sarver ''repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns,'' though added there is "no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate", concluding he said the word "when recounting the statements of others".

The study also determined that there were "instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees," including "sex-related comments" and inappropriate comments made toward a pregnant woman. 

He also made inappropriate jokes about sex and anatomy, as well as yelled and cursed at employees in a manner that would be considered bullying ''under workplace standards".

Based on the findings by the probe, the NBA punished Sarver by banning him from any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility; attending or participating in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including games, practices or business partner activity; representing the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity; or having any involvement with the business or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury. 

The league said it would donate his $10m fine ''to organisations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace".

''The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,'' NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

"We believe the outcome is the right one, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to upholding proper standards in NBA workplaces.'' 

Sarver said he will ''accept the consequences of the league's decision'', though also stated he disagreed with some of the investigation. 

"While I disagree with some of the particulars of the NBA's report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees," Sarver said in a statement through the Suns.

"I take full responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values."

As part of his punishment by the NBA, Sarver will have to complete a training programme ''focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace."' 

''On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators' report," Silver said. "We must do better."

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