Robert Sarver, the embattled owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, on Wednesday announced that he’s starting the process of selling both teams after the NBA suspended and fined him over workplace misconduct, NBC News reported.
Sarver’s announcement comes a week after the league handed him a one-year suspension and fined him $10 million after an investigation determined he made racist and sexist comments in the workplace.
In a statement on Wednesday, Sarver appeared to suggest that his current situation was untenable, hence his decision to sell both teams.
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love,” Sarver said.
“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
He added: “I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.”
Sarver’s announcement to sell both teams also comes after the NBA players union, the National Basketball Players Association, as well as some prominent players, took issue with the punishment the league handed out to him.
In a statement, the players union’s executive director, Tamika Tremaglio, said that Sarver’s “reported actions and conduct are horrible and have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter.”
Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James tweeted that the league “definitely got this wrong.”
“Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself,” James posted on September 14.
“I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.”
“Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated,” Paul wrote. “I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected.”
In a statement to announce his punishment last week, the NBA said that Sarver “cannot enter any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility” during the period of his suspension. He cannot also attend or take part in any NBA or WNBA event, represent the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity, or have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of both teams, the league added. Sarver is also banned from having any involvement in the business, governance, or activities of both leagues.
The fine imposed on Sarver is the maximum amount permitted by the rules of the league, NBC News reported. The money, which is the highest fine imposed on a single individual in the history of professional basketball, will be donated to “organizations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace,” the league said.
The investigation into Sarver’s workplace conduct was launched after ESPN published a November 4 story where former and current Phoenix Suns employees accused the team owner of making racist and misogynistic comments during interactions with them at work.
The probe determined that Sarver repeated “the N-word when recounting the statements of others” on “at least five occasions.” The probe also established that Sarver “engaged in instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees, made many sex-related comments in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women.”
Sarver, who for 18 years has served as the organization’s managing partner, is said to have also “engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees” that “constituted bullying,” the league determined, per NBC News.
“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.