- Robert Sarver said in a statement that he is selling the Phoenix Suns and Mercury due to the “current unforgiving climate.”
- Sarver said he believed he would use his year-long suspension for workplace misconduct as a way to grow and do “good.”
- When ESPN reported that Sarver used the “N-word” and made inappropriate comments to employees, Sarver blasted the report as false.
Robert Sarver on Wednesday announced that he is planning to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury following a year-long suspension and $10 million fine for workplace misconduct.
Sarver — who was found to have said the “N-word” at least five times and made inappropriate, sex-related comments to employees — blamed the “current unforgiving climate” for the decision to sell the teams.
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness,” Sarver said in a statement. “I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.
“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past.”
This recent statement stands in contrast to Sarver’s reaction when ESPN’s Baxter Holmes initially reported on Sarver’s workplace misconduct in November 2021.
Many of the details in ESPN’s report were corroborated by the NBA’s investigation.
However, when the report was first published, Sarver released his own statement, calling it “misleading,” “inaccurate,” and “false.”
“I continue to be shocked by the false reporting from Baxter Holmes,” Sarver said. “While there is so much that is inaccurate and misleading in this story that I hardly know where to begin, let me be clear: The n-word is not part of my vocabulary. I have never called anyone or any group of people the n-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by that word, either verbally or in writing. I don’t use that word.”
Sarver added that he would “welcome” an outside investigation, which he said “may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I’m so very proud.”
When the NBA announced its punishment for Sarver earlier this month, the 60-year-old businessman said he disagreed with some of the particulars of the investigation, but apologized and said he’d use the suspension to learn (the NBA also mandated he take a workplace conduct training).
It’s a stark turn — from an angry denial that he ever did anything wrong to saying he is deserving of an opportunity to grow.
But there are questions as to whether Sarver is legitimately sorry for his actions. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Holmes reported that Sarver disagreed with the idea that he deserved a year-long suspension and $10 million fine for his actions. Wojnarowksi and Holmes described the punishment process as “acrimonious.”
The independent investigation into Sarver determined that his behavior wasn’t racist or sexist in nature, but “sophomoric” attempts at humor. Investigators said Sarver behaved as if “workplace norms and policies did not apply to him.”
Still, many in the NBA world thought Sarver got off light and should not continue to act as governor of the Suns. LeBron James said there was no place for Sarver in the NBA. Draymond Green said the league should hold a vote among owners to terminate Sarver’s ownership. Suns vice chairman and minority owner Jahm Najafi called for Sarver’s resignation in a statement.
Though Sarver may feel as if he is the victim of cancel culture, many would argue he is still getting off light — he is set to earn hundreds of millions in profit from the sale of the teams.