“Our league was definitely wrong,” LeBron James wrote today just hours after NBA commissioner Adam Silver. went in front of the media to try to contain the fallout over what many see as too light penalties on Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for his reported sexist, racist and abusive behavior towards his subordinates.
Perhaps even more crucially, Suns star point guard, locker room leader and former NBA Players’ Association president Chris Paul just released a statement on Twitter that reads in part: “I was and am horrified and disappointed with what I have read… I am of the opinion that the sanctions have not really addressed what we can all agree is atrocious behaviour. »
Like many others, I have reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This behavior, especially towards women, is unacceptable and should never be repeated.
—Chris Paul (@CP3) September 15, 2022
Paul’s words may carry as much or even more weight than James’s, as he was the leader of the Los Angeles Clippers when, in 2014, that team’s owner, Donald Sterling, was forced to sell the team after he been filmed making racist remarks.
This week the league, after a months-long investigation, confirmed details of Sarver’s behavior that first aired nearly a year ago in a November 2021 ESPN briefing. That report included examples of Sarver repeatedly using the N-word over the decades in front of players, coaches, team staff, and even in an email to the league.
According to the NBA’s own findings, Sarver also made a joke that the team should have players “imbued with local strippers so they feel connected to the area, giving the Suns a potential advantage in the recruitment of free agencies”.
Sarver, according to the NBA, described sexual acts with his wife in front of employees and told an employee that she “would be unable to do her job becoming a mother”, claiming that she would be busy “breastfeeding” and that a “baby needs its mother, not its father. After the employee cried in response, Sarver asked why women “crying so much”.
Additionally, there were “gender-related comments” aimed at female employees, according to the NBA report. Sarver, it’s important to note, also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
A former Suns basketball executive told ESPN of him in 2021, “There’s literally nothing you can tell me about him from a misogynistic or racial perspective that would surprise me.”
Still, league investigators concluded there was “no finding that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender animosity.” He received a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine. This is the upper limit of a fine allowed by the NBA. But Sarver’s net worth is, at the bottom, $400 million and, at the top, $850 million, according to reports.
League commissioner Silver said yesterday that if the independent investigation found racial or gender-based animosity, “it absolutely would have had an impact on the end result here. But that’s not what they found. He also said he didn’t have the power to force Sarver to sell the team, which is technically true.
Many compared Sarver’s remarks to those of former Clippers owner Sterling.
In 2014, Silver, who was just weeks away from serving as NBA commissioner, hit Sterling with a lifetime ban and fined him $2.5 million. He also called on the other NBA team owners to force Sterling to sell the team, adding that he would “do everything in my power to make that happen.” Silver then said it would take a 3/4 vote of the owners in favor of forcing Sterling to sell for that to happen, adding confidently: “I fully expect to get the support I need from others NBA owners to remove it.”
In Sterling’s case, there was massive outcry from the likes of then-president Barack Obama, Lakers great Magic Johnson and Jon Stewart. Many of the Clippers’ corporate sponsors, including companies such as Kia and Carfax, have terminated or suspended their relationships with the team.
That’s not the case this time around – at least for now – and Silver has been less vocal about Sarver’s transgressions.
“I think what we saw in the case of Donald Sterling was blatant racist conduct directed against a select group of people,” the commissioner said this week. “While it’s hard to know what’s on someone’s heart or mind, we’ve heard these words… In the case of Robert Sarver, I would say, first of all, we look at the totality of the circumstances over an 18-year period in which he owned these teams, and ultimately we made a judgment — I made a judgment — that in the circumstances in which he had used that language and that behavior, even if, as I said, it was indefensible, it is not quite good enough.”
The league’s star player disagrees.
“I love this league and deeply respect our leadership. But that’s not fair,” James wrote on Twitter today. “We hold our league up as an example of our values and that’s not it. “
Here is James’ full statement:
Read Sarver’s stories multiple times now. I have to be honest… Our league definitely got it wrong. I don’t need to explain why. You read all the stories and decide for yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and deeply respect our leadership. But that’s not fair. There is no place for misogyny, sexism and racism in any workplace. It doesn’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league as an example of our values and that’s not it.
Read Sarver’s stories multiple times now. I have to be honest… Our league definitely got it wrong. I don’t need to explain why. You read all the stories and decide for yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place in this league for that kind of
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 14, 2022
The NBA preseason begins on September 30. The Suns’ first game is Oct. 5 against — interestingly enough — James’s Los Angeles Lakers.
In 2014, during the Sterling affair, Paul and other Clippers players considered not speaking out in protest. Instead, they chose to play for each other, not Sterling.
While there is no indication of such a possibility at this time, developments over the next couple of weeks could impact this game between two of the league’s star teams and players and, potentially, greater fallout for Sarver and/or the league.
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