NBA Investigation Into Phoenix Suns Leads To 1-Year Suspension, $10 Million Fine For Owner, After Findings Of Racist Language & Inequitable Conduct Towards Women

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The National Basketball Association has officially suspended Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver for 1-year as a result of an investigation into the franchise for the alleged violation of workplace standards. In addition to the suspension, Sarver was also fined $10 million. Sarver is also the owner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury team. 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 and 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.”

ESPN has more HERE.