Suns Vice Chairman Jahm Najafi Calls Out Robert Sarver, Demands He Resigns As Team Owner

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns
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Minority owner and vice chairman of the Phoenix Suns, Jahm Najafi, has called for owner Robert Sarver’s resignation. Najafi stated in an open letter to team employees that there should be a “zero tolerance” policy for lewd, misogynistic and racist conduct in any workplace. Najafi is the franchise’s second-largest stakeholder.

The NBA issued a 1-year suspension and $10 million fine to Sarver after their independent investigation discovered that he violated its workplace standards. 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.”

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.

Najafi has reportedly been very critical of Sarver since the allegations were first made public ESPN back in November. In the open letter, Najafi said he felt that similar conduct done by any other CEO, president, teacher would never have been tolerated by other professional organizations.

“Similar conduct by any CEO, executive director, president, teacher, coach, or any other position of leadership would warrant immediate termination,” Najafi said. “The fact that Robert Sarver ‘owns’ the team does not give him a license to treat others differently than any other leader. The fact that anyone would find him fit to lead because of this ‘ownership’ position is forgetting that NBA teams belong to the communities they serve.”

Najafi continued on, questioning how anyone can expect a functional society “with integrity and respect” if sports leaders are not held to the same standard.

“Team investors are merely temporary stewards. If we, as sports leaders, are not held to the same standards then how can we expect a functional society with integrity and respect on any level? We owe it to you: employees, players, partners, and your families to provide the same positive workplace environment we would require of any other business.”

Najafi says that he cannot “in good judgement” sit back in silence, allowing their children and future generations of basketball fans to think that such conduct is tolerated because of “wealth and privilege”.

“Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver.”

The disciplinary action against Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver is making waves across the world of basketball, and has garnered a major reaction from two of the biggest stars in basketball. Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns both took to social media to voice their displeasure over how the league handled the Sarver situation.

James said that the league “definitely got this wrong” and that there is no room in the NBA for Sarver’s reported behavior. Sarver was given a 1-year suspension 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 dollars.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke to media on Wednesday, defending the disciplinary action taken against Sarver by saying he believes the leagued handled the situation “in a fair manner”. Silver also 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.

“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.”

Phoenix Suns star player Chris Paul also took to social media in protest, stating that he was “horrified and disappointed” after reading the reports about his team’s owner.

“Like many others, I reviewed the report,” Paul said. “I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated.”

ESPN has more HERE.