The owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, Robert Sarver, was on Tuesday suspended for a year and fined $10 million by the NBA after an investigation determined he made racist and sexist comments in the workplace.
During his suspension period, the league in a statement said Sarver cannot enter “any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility.” 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.
Responding to the findings of the probe, Sarver, in a statement, said he takes “full responsibility” though he doesn’t agree with some details of the report. The 60-year-old also rendered an apology.
“Good leadership requires accountability. For the Suns and Mercury organizations, that begins with me,” Sarver said.
“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. 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.”
Sarver also mentioned the strides his organization had made toward promoting diversity and inclusion.
“I accept the consequences of the NBA’s decision. This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow as we continue to build a working culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued,” he added.
“I am extraordinarily proud of the Suns and Mercury organizations and the record we have built concerning diversity, inclusion, and giving back to the community. It means a great deal to me that our dedicated and hardworking employees have made Phoenix a basketball destination — for both players and fans.”