Robert Sarver begins process to sell Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury

Robert Sarver begins process to sell Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury

Amid mounting pressure from NBA players, sponsors and local authorities and following his one-year suspension for using racist and misogynistic language, Robert Sarver announced plans on Wednesday to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. of the WNBA.

The 60-year-old property developer said in a statement that he doesn’t want to be a “distraction” and that he “wants the best” for organisations.

“As a man of faith, I believe in the atonement and the path of forgiveness. I expected the commissioner’s one-year suspension to give me time to focus, make amends, and ‘eliminate my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans adore,’ Sarver said. good, or that I could still do, is compensated by the things that I have said in the past. For these reasons, I am beginning the process of finding buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

Adam Silver was the “good” commissioner. Why waste this defense of the wicked?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended Sarver for a year and fined him up to $10 million last week following the conclusion of a lengthy workplace conduct investigation launched in the aftermath from an ESPN.com article in November. Silver, however, did not issue a lifetime ban on Sarver, a punishment the commissioner previously imposed on former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014 for his racist comments.

Prominent NBA stars such as LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green, as well as National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio, have denounced Sarver’s behavior and suggested Silver’s punishment was wrong. far enough, and PayPal said it would not renew its contract. as the Suns shirt sponsor after this season should Sarver stay with the team, which he has owned since 2004. Minority Suns owner Jahm Najafi and civil rights activists such as the Reverend Al Sharpton have called for the Sarver’s resignation, while Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and city council members released a statement saying they were “appalled” by his behavior and planned to conduct their own investigation.

With the 2022-23 season set to open next month and team media days set to begin on Sunday, Sarver’s decision to pursue the sale of the Suns was met with relief across the league given his initial denials of the ESPN.com allegations and his reputation for stubbornness. Although he issued an apology after Silver suspended him, Sarver disputed some of the report’s findings and his legal representatives continued to quibble over some of the allegations. There were fears that Sarver would dig in, like Sterling, creating a protracted power struggle over the Suns’ future and an untenable day-to-day existence.

“I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Silver said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s the right next step for the organization and the community.”

Silver noted last week that he had no authority as commissioner to unilaterally remove the Suns from Sarver. Instead, the NBA Board of Governors would have had to vote against Sarver by a three-quarters majority, a difficult and time-consuming proposal that could have resulted in litigation on Sarver’s part. The NBA’s decision to publicly release the investigators’ report, however, exposed Sarver to widespread criticism and outrage. In the past, similar investigative reports have been summarized by the league rather than released in full.

“So proud to be part of a league committed to progress,” James tweeted on Wednesday.

“We thank Mr. Sarver for making an early decision that was in the best interests of our athletic community,” NBPA President CJ McCollum said in a statement.

Investigators at law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz documented a long list of workplace misconduct violations in a 43-page report, including Sarver using the n-word at least five times, repeated examples of sexist behavior and multiple incidents in which Sarver exposed himself to employees.

According to witnesses, Sarver used the n-word when recruiting a free agent in 2004, during a team-building exercise in 2012 or 2013, after an October 2016 game against the Golden State Warriors and in telling a story about what a player’s family member said while boarding the team plane. According to two witnesses, Sarver quoted the family member as saying, “White people in front, [n-words] in the back.” Investigators found that Sarver, who is white, continued to use the slur for years despite repeated warnings from colleagues that it was inappropriate.

Sarver’s transgressions of female employees included telling one she had to stop working on an assignment because her baby “needed her mother, not her father”, asking another if she had gotten ‘an upgrade’ – a euphemism for a breast augmentation – and telling another she had ‘never seen anything so big’ as he prepared to take a shower at the facilities of the team. In another incident, he berated an employee for her performance in 2011, objected when she started crying and then hosted a lunch for four employees which was seen by attendees as a way to toughen them up.

Investigators attributed part of Sarver’s behavior to his “sophomoric and inappropriate” sense of humor and his “lack of a filter,” but they have documented incidents that repeatedly crossed the line into harassment. While receiving a “fitness check” from a male employee, Sarver “unnecessarily dropped his underwear” as the employee knelt in front of him, exposing himself. Sarver also danced “basin to basin” with a male employee at a holiday party, pulled down a male employee’s pants in front of co-workers at a charity event in 2014, and asked at least one player to the 2009-10 team his personal grooming habits. .

Under the terms of his suspension, Sarver has been banned from attending all NBA and WNBA games and team facilities, he cannot appear at public events on behalf of the Suns or Mercury of the WNBA, and he may not be involved in the business operations of his organization or league meetings. Sam Garvin, the Suns’ longtime minority owner, replaced Sarver on an interim basis.

“The racist old boys’ club in professional sports is officially closed,” Sharpton said in a statement. “A new era is upon us where it is intolerable to view black players as property. Sarver’s decision today is the first step on a long road to justice for the Suns and Mercury – staff, players and fans. It is now imperative that the NBA, both teams, corporate sponsors and whoever new owner follow through on the commitment to stamp out racism, misogyny and hate.

Throughout his tenure, Sarver was known as a thrifty – and sometimes combative – owner who struggled to put winning teams on the field after the initial success of the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns, who reached the Western Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006. Phoenix missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons from 2011 to 2020 as Sarver went through coaches, hired and fired executives, and was repeatedly struck out of the NBA draft. In a particularly tumultuous streak, Sarver fired coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-18 season, then fired his full-time replacement, Igor Kokoskov, after one season.

There have been many mishaps along the way. In 2014, Sarver apologized to Suns fans because the San Antonio Spurs chose to rest several stars during a game in Phoenix. Spurs manager Gregg Popovich responded bluntly, saying Sarver should have worn a “chicken suit” during his speech. In 2017, the Suns keep Eric Bledsoe famously tweeted “I don’t want to be here,” a trade request that he said referred to his boredom at a hair salon. Then, in 2019, Sarver allegedly put live goats in his chief executive’s office in what was apparently a motivational tactic.

But the arrival in recent years of coach Monty Williams and Paul has brought the Suns back into the playoffs and onto the national stage. Phoenix reached the Finals in 2021 for the first time since 1993, and it won a franchise-record 64 games last season despite the ongoing Sarver investigation. With a talented roster built around Paul, star goaltender Devin Booker, forward Mikal Bridges and center Deandre Ayton, the Suns enter the upcoming season as one of the West’s favorites.

The Suns released a statement on Wednesday, accepting Sarver’s decision and pledging to “create, maintain and protect a top-notch experience” for employees.

“We recognize the courage of those who have come forward in this process to tell their stories and apologize to those hurt,” the statement said. “We are on a journey that began before last November, which has included changes in management, staff and accountability measures. While we are proud of our progress and the culture of respect and integrity we are building, we know there is still work to do and relationships to rebuild.

Sarver led a group that bought the Suns for around $400 million in 2004, and a recent Forbes estimate pegged the franchise’s current value at over $1.8 billion. The Suns’ sale price valuation could exceed $2 billion, as NBA franchises have increased significantly in value in recent years and a new national media rights deal is on the horizon. After the Clippers sold for $2 billion in 2014, the Houston Rockets sold for $2.2 billion in 2017, and the Brooklyn Nets sold out with the Barclays Center arena for $3.3 billion. dollars in 2019.) and Minnesota Timberwolves ($1.5 billion) have produced lucrative returns for their longtime owners.

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