The NBA announced on Tuesday that Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver would be handed a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine, following an investigation into his conduct.
The league concluded he “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and league rules and policies.”
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The penalty for Sarver is not only the largest in NBA history, but also the maximum fine allowed by NBA rule, according to the Associated Press, however, many were displeased with the punishment, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James who took to Twitter today, saying “our league definitely got this wrong.”
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.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 14, 2022
“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,” LeBron continued.
Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul echoed LeBron’s view on the issues, saying he was “horrified and disappointed” at the report on Sarver’s behavior, adding that the league “fell short” in its punishment.
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.
— Chris Paul (@CP3) September 15, 2022
The league began an independent investigation following ESPN’s Baxter Holmes’ report in November 2021, which revealed Sarver’s racist, sexist and hostile behavior, during his 17-year tenure as owner of the Suns. The report featured interviews with more than 70 current and former Suns employees, detailing a “toxic and sometimes hostile workplace” under Sarver.
MORE: Where does Sarver’s $10 million fine rank in NBA history?
Sarver’s punishment is second only to the league’s discipline for former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the team after his racist comments were recorded and made public in 2014.
The NBA today issued the following statement: pic.twitter.com/jjlBK771PT
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) September 13, 2022
James and Paul’s statements reflect the view of the National Basketball Players Association, with executive director Tamika Tremaglio releasing a statement saying there is no place for Sarver in the league:
Mr. Sarver’s reported actions and conduct are horrible and have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter.
Additionally, the investigation confirmed that Mr. Sarver’s deplorable behavior did not just come to light in November 2021. In fact, the report indicated Mr Sarver’s long history of inappropriate conduct, including racial and gender insensitivity, misogyny and harassment. All issues that led to a toxic work environment for well over a decade.
I have made my position known to Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again.
Key findings from the Robert Sarver investigation
The investigation, which included interviews with 320 people and the examination of more than 80,000 documents and other materials, determined that Sarver made racially insensitive and “sex-related” comments and engaged in “inequitable conduct toward female employees.”
Per the NBA’s statement:
- Mr. Sarver, on at least five occasions during his tenure with the Suns/Mercury organization, repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others.
- Mr. 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, and on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees.
- Mr. Sarver engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees, including by yelling and cursing at them.
Additionally, the investigation found that there was a “lack of proper organizational policies and control” and noted that the Suns’ human resources department was “historically ineffective and not a trusted resource for employees who were subjected to acts of improper workplace conduct.”
You can read the full report here.