Phoenix Suns and Mercury Owner Robert Sarver announced Wednesday that he is beginning the process of selling both teams, which could soon end an uncertain situation that has engulfed the franchise ever since. an ESPN report last November detailed accusations against Sarver of racism and sexual misconduct in the workplace.
“I don’t want to disturb these two teams and the good people who work hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world,” said Sarver. said in a statement. “I want the best for these two organizations, the players, the staff, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone. .”
Sarver’s announcement comes nearly a week after NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA had suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million following the outcome of a federation-mandated investigation of a independent law firm on Sarver’s allegations.
The investigation backed up much of ESPN’s original reporting and revealed Sarver not only presided over a toxic workplace, but also he is often the cause of that toxicity. In a press conference, however, Silver defended the federation’s punishment and told reporters he couldn’t ban Sarver from the NBA because he “didn’t have the right to deprive his team.”
The one-year suspension was met with backlash from fans, players, team sponsors and even Suns limited owners.
Multiple sources in NBA ownership told FOX Sports they believe the Suns will likely sell for more than the record $3.3 billion valuation Joseph Tsai paid in 2019, when he bought 51. % brooklyn network (he previously owned 49%) and their arena, Barclays Center.
“People have been raising money for this and looking at the Sun since the original story broke last year,” said a source closely linked to the ownership bid. “That doesn’t slow down once the punishment is announced [by Silver]. For those in these circles, this has been the presumptive outcome for some time. “
Below is a timeline of events that took place over the past 10 months leading up to this point.
Sarver and Suns attack
In October 2021, shortly before the ESPN report was released but knowing it was imminent, Sarver said in a statement that he was “absolutely shocked” by its claims. He said it contained “vague hints given mostly by anonymous voices.”
“I categorically reject any and all suggestions where I have used racial or gender disparaging language,” Sarver said.
The Suns also released a statement saying that a story is about to be released that “makes completely baseless claims.” They added that the organization had both documents and eyewitness evidence that “directly contradicted” the report.
“We urge everyone not to rush to judgment here,” the statement read. “Especially based on lies, insinuations and a false story to attack our organization and its leadership.”
Suns general manager James Jones extended his support in a statement: “Nothing has been said to describe the Robert Sarver that I know, respect and like – it just doesn’t.”
Suns team president and CEO Jason Rowley also weighed in, saying the story was “completely outrageous and untrue.”
In November 2021, ESPN published a damning report describing “a toxic and sometimes hostile workplace under Sarver,” in which he used racially insensitive language and inappropriate behavior towards women.
Among the findings, former Suns head coach Earl Watson recorded to describe a conversation with Sarver after the game with Combatant which he finds offensive. According to Watson, Sarver repeatedly used the word N when he was supposed to narrate Draymond GreenWatson’s words defy Watson telling him to stop.
The NBA announced in November that it was hiring Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to conduct a comprehensive investigation into Sarver’s allegations.
After the ESPN report went live, Sarver said he would welcome an investigation into the allegations made about him. He said in a statement that it “may prove our only way out to clear my name and the reputation of an organization of which I am very proud.”
Sarver called many of the findings in the report “inaccurate and misleading.”
“I have never referred to anyone or any group of people as the N-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by that word, orally or in writing,” says Sarver. “I don’t use that word. It is disgusting and ugly, defamatory and against all that I believe in.”
Rowley reiterated Sarver, saying in a statement that he welcomes an investigation.
Suns Vice President Andy Kohlberg also defended Sarver, saying in a statement that he had never seen or heard Sarver make any racist, sexist or misleading statements. . He added that he was never contacted about the ESPN story.
The Suns played a game with Houston Rockets the same day the ESPN report was published.
After the game, star players Chris Paul and Devin Booker were questioned about the allegations.
“For us, it’s about controlling what we can control – and that’s the spin,” said Paul, who also plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, said when former owner Donald Sterling was banned for life in 2014 after a tape leaked of him making racist comments.
Booker was asked directly if he had heard Sarver use the N word.
“The seven years I’ve been here, I haven’t realized it, but that doesn’t make me insensitive to the subject,” Booker said. “…I think the NBA’s open investigation will do their due diligence in coming up with the facts.
Nearly a year after the ESPN report, on September 13, the NBA announced Sarver would be suspended for a year and fined $10 million following an investigation, which included interviews with 320 people and a review of more than 10 million people. 80,000 documents.
Among the findings, the investigation concluded that Sarver used the N word at least five times “when retelling other people’s accounts.”
It also found that Sarver engaged in “unfair behavior” towards female employees, making “many gender-related comments in the workplace” and “making inappropriate comments about her appearance” female employee.”
Also important to the report: There were no findings of racist or sexist behavior.
Silver questions Sarver’s punishment
Silver spoke to the media after the Board of Governors meeting in New York on September 14, defending his sanction of Sarver.
Silver, who has been widely praised for banning Sterling for life just three months after his tenure as NBA commissioner, called the Sarver and Sterling situation “significantly different.”
He delivered a tough criticism of Sarver’s words and behavior, calling it “bland”. But he pointed to the fact that the report found no racial or gender hatred and added that he had looked at Saver’s 18-year tenure overall when deciding on his punishment.
The face of the tournament speaks out
After that day, LeBron JamesThe most vocal in the league with over 184 million followers on Twitter and Instagram, was the first player to call out the NBA’s handling of the Sarver situation.
Hours later, Suns superstar Chris Paul spoke out, also taking issue with Sarver’s penalty.
Paul tweeted that “sanctions do not address what we can agree is atrocity.” Paul added that he was “appalled and disappointed” by the report, particularly with regard to Sarver’s treatment of women.
Suns minority owner calls for Sarver to resign
On September 15, Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi called for Sarver to step down in a statement.
“I cannot judge properly and allow our children and future generations of fans to think that this behavior is tolerated for the sake of wealth and privilege,” Najafi said. “So in line with my commitment to helping eradicate all forms of racism, sexism and prejudice, as Vice President of the Phoenix Suns, I call on Robert Sarver to step down.”
Tight wallet straps
On September 16, PayPal, the Suns’ shirt sponsor, released a statement that it would not renew its sponsorship with the team if Sarver returned from a one-year suspension.
“PayPal is a value-driven company and has a strong track record in combating racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination” statement read. “We reviewed the report of the NBA’s independent investigation into Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and found his behavior to be unacceptable and inconsistent with our values. PayPal’s sponsorship with the Suns will expire at the end of the current season In the light of the NBA’s investigation, we will not renew our sponsorship if Robert Sarver remains involved with the Suns organization, after serve a suspended sentence.”
NBA Players Association Backs Ban
During an appearance on ESPN’s “NBA Today” on September 16, NBAPA executive Tamika Tremaglio said she wants Sarver to be banned from the NBA.
“We absolutely call for that,” she said. “We don’t want him in a position where he is managing or engaging with individuals who are interacting with our players or the players themselves. We are absolutely clear from the findings. in the report that we don’t want him to be in that position.”
Draymond Green inner bell
On September 20, Draymond Green called on NBA owners to hold a vote on whether Sarver should be banned.
“To think that someone like Robert Sarver who is acting that way can continue to represent us? Those are bulls —,” Green said on his podcast, “The Draymond Green Show.” “You can’t continue to represent more people than yourself with those views, talk to people the way he did, treat African Americans and women the way he has, that’s it. is not okay.”
Sarver announced plans to sell the team
In the end, Sarver decided he had no choice but to sell the team. With some of the league’s biggest players calling for a harsher punishment, sponsors threatening bail and members of his own organization openly speaking out against him, the photos The wall begins to close to the 60-year-old owner after the time of return.
“PayPal says they won’t renew [changed everything]”, one owner told FOX Sports. I’m sure other sponsors [were threatening] also. That’s a huge amount of money that his partners won’t be satisfied with [losing]. “
In a statement, Sarver said he hoped the suspension would allow him to “modify and clear my personal controversy,” adding, “but in our current zero-tolerance atmosphere.” It became clear to me that it was no longer possible.”
Hours after Sarver’s announcement, James weighed in on the tweet, “I’m so proud to be part of a league committed to progress!”
Silver added his thoughts
Silver went on to release a statement welcoming Sarver’s decision.
“I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” he said. “This is the right next step for the organization and the community.”
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter at @melissarohlin.
Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Rise to the top: the Philadelphia 76ers and the most incredible run in professional sports history. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.
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