Phoenix Suns Owner Suspended, Fined $10 Million After Conduct ‘Clearly Violated’ Workplace Standards

Phoenix Suns Owner Suspended, Fined $10 Million After Conduct ‘Clearly Violated’ Workplace Standards
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver takes images during a game against the Houston Rockets at Footprint Center in Phoenix on Feb. 16, 2022. (Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY via Reuters)
Naveen Athrappully
9/14/2022
Updated:
9/14/2022
0:00

The NBA has suspended Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, for a year and fined him $10 million following an investigation that alleged he engaged in sexist and racist behavior.

In November 2021, ESPN alleged misconduct by Sarver, after which the NBA commissioned law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to look into the matter. The firm interviewed 320 individuals and evaluated over 80,000 documents and other materials including text messages and emails.

On Sept. 13, the investigation team issued its report (pdf), which alleged that in his 18-year tenure as governor of the Suns organization, Sarver engaged in conduct that “clearly violated” common workplace standards.

“This conduct included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying. The conduct was consistent over the period—of those interviewed, over 100 individuals witnessed Sarver’s statements or actions that violated applicable standards,” the report said.

During the one-year suspension, Sarver is prohibited from being present at any NBA or WNBA facility, such as arenas, practice facilities, or offices. He cannot participate in NBA or WNBA events and is banned from representing Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity.

Sarver has also been fined $10 million, which is the highest amount permitted under NBA rules. The organization said it will donate the fine to address gender and race issues.

During his suspension, Sarver will have to complete a training program aimed at improving his workplace conduct. The Suns/Mercury organization will also have to put in effort to create a “diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace,” the NBA said in a Sept. 13 press release.

Misconduct, Response

The law firm’s investigation found that on at least five occasions, Sarver allegedly used the N-word while recounting other people’s statements. He is also reported to have cursed and yelled at workers.

Sarver allegedly engaged in inequitable conduct toward female employees, made sex-related comments, engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees, and made inappropriate comments about the appearance of female employees, the report states.

Suns’ employees were also alleged to have engaged in the mistreatment of female workers, disrespectful communication, and racial insensitivity. Most of the employees no longer work for the organization.

In a statement, Sarver disagreed with “some of the particulars” of the investigation and apologized for offending employees, according to NBC.

“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,” he said.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.
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