NBA Concludes Robert Sarver Investigation; Phoenix Suns fans react

While the suspension of Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver brings relief to fans after a thorough investigation, others believe the NBA should impose a harsher penalty. (File photo by Karrissa D. Herrera/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX — The NBA announced Tuesday that Phoenix Suns and Mercury managing partner Robert Sarver will serve a one-year suspension from the league and be fined $10 million, the maximum amount for an owner, to the continuation of the league’s investigation into workplace misconduct.

For some Suns fans, conclusions and punishment are slow in coming.

“I’m glad something finally happened and I hope the property starts to move in the right direction,” said Suns fan and season ticket holder Brendan Sodell. “Even on top of the racism issues that happened, he did way more than he did. Personally, I don’t think he should be allowed back.

Sarver, who bought the Suns and Mercury in 2004, had been under an NBA investigation for nearly a year. The investigation focused on his treatment of his employees during his tenure with the team. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes shed light on Sarver’s allegations last November, detailing stories regarding Sarver’s hostility toward Suns employees. Following the article, Sarver denied the allegations and said he welcomed the investigation, which ultimately painted a negative picture of Sarver’s tenure as Suns owner.

The NBA investigation found that Sarver’s choice of words and actions illustrated a toxic workplace. This includes repeatedly using racial slurs, making inappropriate comments about female employees’ physical appearance, and conducting inappropriate physical misconduct towards male employees.

While suspended, Sarver is not permitted to be on NBA or WNBA facilities and he is not permitted to represent the Mercury or Suns at public or private events for one year. In addition, the league requires him to follow a training program focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace.

“I’m disappointed at how minimal the punishment is,” Suns fan Cami Parrish said. “I think (the NBA is) just trying to give the impression that they’re doing something about it while making sure other owners know there won’t be a harsh penalty if they’re caught. doing something similar.”

The Suns Legacy Partners, which includes both the Suns and the Mercurys, said in a press release that they have strengthened their culture and are focused on creating a workplace where all employees are valued. Sarver also released a statement following his suspension announcement and downplayed the NBA’s decision.

“While I disagree with certain details of the NBA report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees,” Sarver said in a statement. “I take full responsibility for what I did. I’m sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not in line with my personal philosophy or values.

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The NBA’s decision comes at the end of a busy offseason for the Suns. They re-signed Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton to long-term extensions, bolstered their bench by signing former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie and re-signing Bismack Biomboyo, and got the league talking at the following trade rumors with future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant. However, this week’s development may be the biggest news of the offseason and could have the potential to be a distraction for the team.

“Ownership is something that shouldn’t be a problem, and it shouldn’t be something that interferes with the team and the game itself,” Parrish said. “I don’t think it should be something the players should have in mind and unfortunately it is. I would like him to have to sell the team so they can focus on what they are supposed to do: play basketball.

Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling faced a similar situation in 2014. Sterling was banned from the NBA, fined $2.5 million and forced to sell the team following a leaked audio recording of Sterling making racist comments during a conversation with his girlfriend at the time.

There is a potential scenario where Sarver is forced to sell the team. According to the rules, 75% of the owners must vote against and force another owner to sell the team. However, this is an unlikely situation because the owners fear that if they reject Sarver, it could happen to them too.

For now, Suns fans are relieved and pleased with Tuesday’s step in the right direction.

“This type of behavior within the organization starts with Sarver,” Sodell said. “As I said before, hopefully we can move on without Sarver and focus on running the team well.”

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