The NBA has punished Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver to the tune of a $10 million fine and a one-year suspension from all basketball-related activity as a result of its investigation into Sarver’s workplace conduct.
According to the probe — spurred by a November 2021 ESPN report alleging racism and misogyny within the Suns organization — Sarver used the n-word “on at least five occasions” when recounting the statements of others, and engaged in “inequitable conduct toward female employees.”
More specifically, Sarver “made many sex-related comments in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women,” and “on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees.”
Sarver, who bought the Suns in 2004, cooperated fully with the investigation, the league said. The fine was the maximum allowed under NBA rules.
“The statements and conduct described in the finding of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in the statement on Tuesday. “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.”
But the NBA’s statement regarding its independent investigation also contradicts the findings and appears to take the long-time real estate mogul off the hook for the bad behavior that was uncovered from a probe that included interviews with 320 current or former employees.
“The investigation made no finding that Mr. Sarver’s workplace misconduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus,” the NBA’s statement reads after an independent investigation by an outside law firm.
Instead the report tries to portray the 60-year-old owner as something of an entitled frat boy.
“While it is difficult to identify with precision what motivated Sarver’s workplace behavior described in this report, certain patterns emerged from witness accounts: Sarver often acted aggressively in an apparent effort to provoke a reaction from his targets; Sarver’s sense of humor was sophomoric and inappropriate for the workplace; and Sarver behaved as though workplace norms and policies did not apply to him,” read the report from the New York-based investigating firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
During his suspension, Sarver will have to complete a training program focused on workplace conduct. The NBA will donate the funds from Sarver’s $10 million fine to organizations that address race and gender-based issues in the workplace.
Developing story, check back for details
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