in New York Following an investigation into allegations of racism and misogyny, the NBA on Tuesday announced that Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver will be suspended for a year and would also be subject to a $10 million fine.
The independent review found that Sarver “acted in conduct that obviously breached accepted workplace standards, as reflected in team and League rules and practises,” the league stated in announcing the punishment.
This behaviour included the use of racially inappropriate language, the treating of female employees unfairly, sex-related remarks and actions, and severe treatment of employees that occasionally amounted to bullying.
In November 2021, after ESPN released an article citing more than 70 Suns employees who claimed Sarver had fostered a “toxic” work environment in his 17 years as the club’s owner, the NBA commissioned the independent inquiry into Sarver, who also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
At the time, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a law firm, initiated an investigation that was welcomed by Sarver, who at the time refuted the accusations.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the Suns, Sarver stated that “good leadership needs accountability.”
“That starts with me for the Suns and Mercury organisations.
“Although I disagree with some of the specifics in the NBA report, I sincerely regret any offence my words or actions may have caused to our staff. I fully accept responsibility for my actions. I’m sorry if I hurt you, and I don’t think these mistakes of judgement are in line with who I am or what I stand for.
The $10 million punishment, which the NBA stated is the maximum allowed by the league’s constitution and bylaws, would be donated “to organisations that are committed to tackling race and gender-based challenges in and outside the workplace,” according to the NBA.
Sarver, however, avoided the fate of Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who was permanently banned from the NBA in 2014 after being caught on tape using racial slurs in a personal chat.
Later, the league compelled the team’s sale to new owners.
The NBA reported that 320 persons were interviewed as part of the probe, including Sarver and both current and former Suns workers.
The league claimed Sarver and the teams completely cooperated with the investigation, which included reviewing more than 80,000 papers and other evidence, including emails, text messages, and films.
According to the study, Sarver “repeated the N-word when relaying the statements of others” on at least five instances during his tenure.
Additionally, he “engaged in instances of unjust conduct toward female employees, made sex-related comments at work, made inappropriate comments regarding the physical attractiveness of female employees and other women, and on numerous occasions engaged in unsuitable physical behaviour toward male colleagues.”
A pregnant employee was told by Sarver in one incident mentioned in the report that she would be unable to perform her work once she gave birth since she would be “breastfeeding” and a baby “needs their mum not their father.”
The investigation also supported instances of improper organisational policies and procedures and workplace misconduct by other Suns workers.
Sarver’s violent behaviour frequently appeared to be meant “solely to create a reaction from employees—to shame them or impose power over them,” according to many witnesses who spoke with investigators, who noted this in their report.
They did, however, note that there was “no conclusion that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus” in the probe.
“Confusing and let down.”
The findings, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, are “troubling and disheartening.”
However, the league pointed out that the Suns no longer employ the majority of the staff members who were accused of misbehaviour.
The club hired a new head of human resources in July 2021, and she has put in place new rules to enhance the office environment and give staff members a reliable way to report wrongdoing.
Due to his suspension, Sarver is not permitted to be in any office, arena, or practise facility belonging to an NBA or WNBA team.
He is prohibited from attending or taking part in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including games, practises, or events involving business partners. He is also prohibited from taking part in the clubs’ basketball operations or governance.
Sarver must also finish a training course “centred on respect and acceptable conduct in the workplace,” according to a league order.