NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Defends Disciplinary Action Against Suns Owner Robert Sarver, Calls It “Fair”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke to media on Wednesday, defending the disciplinary action taken against Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is also the owner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. After launching an independent investigation into the Suns organization, the National Basketball Association issued a 1-year suspension and $10 million fine to Sarver after he was found to have reportedly violated its workplace standards.
The investigation was reportedly commissioned by the league after ESPN published an article in November of 2021, which detailed various allegations of misogyny and racism during Sarver’s 17-year tenure as team owner.
NBA Communications issued a statement on Tuesday regarding the investigation into the Suns. The league stated that it found that Sarver used the N-word at least five times “when recounting the statements of others” during his tenure with both the Suns and Mercury franchises. The NBA also reportedly found instances of “inequitable conduct towards female employees,” including inappropriate comments regarding the appearances of employees and “sex-related comments.”
Sarver “cooperated fully with the investigation process” according to the NBA; however, ESPN’s Baxter Holms and Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Sarver was “unaccepting” of the disciplinary action handed down, believing that he did not deserve the suspension and $10 million fine for his conduct. Officials say the punitive part of the process had become largely “acrimonious.”
The investigation was reportedly led by Wachtell Lipton, a law firm based in New York. Sarver was accused of having “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and league policies.” Sarver issued a statement through the Suns organization, stating that he takes full responsibility for his actions despite not agreeing with parts of the league’s report.
“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. 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.”
The Suns said that the organization is “committed to creating a safe, respectful, and inclusive work environment that is free of discrimination and harassment” as part of its official statement. The team also said that it has strengthened the culture and “focused on creating a workplace where everyone feels included and valued.”
ESPN reportedly spoke to a former staff member, who stated that the disciplinary action is inadequate and believes the NBA has failed.
“It’s barely a slap on the wrist and shows us the league truly doesn’t stand for diversity, equity or inclusion. I’m grateful to have the validation after being told I was insane, a b—- and being dramatic. That definitely lets me breathe a little. But I’m angry. The league failed us when they had the opportunity to stand behind its values.”
Silver stated that he was in “disbelief to a certain extent” over what he learned had transpired in the Suns organization. Silver also said that he was “disheartened” by the revelation, and issued an apology to both the former and current Phoenix Suns employees.
“From a personal standpoint, I was in disbelief to a certain extent about what I learned that had transpired over the last 18 years in the Suns organization. I was saddened by it, disheartened. I want to again apologize to the former, and in some cases current, employees of the Phoenix Suns for what they had to experience. There is absolutely no excuse for it. And we addressed it.”
Silver continued on, defending the disciplinary action taken against Sarver by saying he believes they dealt with the situation fairly.
“Let me reiterate: The conduct is indefensible. But I feel we dealt with it in a fair manner, both taking into account the totality of the circumstances, not just those particular allegations but the 18 years in which Mr. Sarver has owned the Suns and the Mercury.”
Sarver is on notice regarding his future behavior, according to Silver, who added that the board of governors in Manhattan did not discuss Sarver’s ownership being terminated due to Sarver having certain rights as a franchise owner.
The New York Times has more HERE.