Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver suspended and fined $10 million after investigation finds conduct ‘clearly violated’ workplace standards

Robert Sarver, the Phoenix Suns‘ majority owner since 2004, is suspended for one year and fined $10 million, the NBA announced Tuesday, marking the end of the league’s nearly year-long investigation into Sarver’s conduct and culture within the Suns organization.

The league’s investigation came after ESPN published a story from November 2021based on interviews with over 70 current and former employees, which included allegations of racism and misogyny in a sometimes hostile and toxic workplace in Phoenix during Sarver’s tenure.

Sarver, who also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, must also complete a training program that focuses on respect and proper conduct in the workplace.

While the NBA says Sarver “cooperated fully with the investigative process,” sources told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarowski that he doesn’t accept the idea that he deserves a one-year suspension. year and a $10 million fine for his behavior.

Sarver and the team have previously denied nearly all of the allegations and said they welcome the league’s investigation.

In a statement of its findings, the NBA said the investigation found Sarver used the N-word at least five times “when recounting the statements of others.”

There have also been “cases of unfair conduct toward female employees,” the NBA said in its statement, including “gender-related comments” and inappropriate comments about employee appearance.

Sarver treated employees in a “demeaning” manner, including “shouting and swearing”.

As part of the suspension, Sarver is not permitted to be on NBA or WNBA facilities, including offices and practice facilities. He is also not permitted to be part of any NBA or WNBA event or activity, or represent the Suns or Mercury publicly or privately.

“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in the statement. “We believe the outcome is the right one, considering all the facts, circumstances and contexts brought to light by the thorough investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to maintaining appropriate standards in the workplaces of the NBA.

“I hope the NBA community will take this opportunity to reflect on what this great game means to people around the world and the values ​​of equality, respect and inclusion it strives to represent. Regardless of position, power or intent, we must all recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior. On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to of all those affected by the misconduct described in the investigators’ report. We must do better.

Led by New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton, the investigation included interviews with more than 320 current and former employees as well as Sarver, the NBA said. It also reviewed more than 80,000 documents and other media, including emails, text messages and videos.

The Suns granted access to human resources records and thousands of internal emails, the sources said. Specialists from Deloitte, a global accountancy firm headquartered in London, and Kirkland Ellis, a Chicago-based law firm, were also involved in the investigation.

In interviews with Wachtell Lipton’s attorneys, some of which were conducted in person, by telephone and by videoconference, Suns employees confirmed a series of allegations published in ESPN’s November article, presented some others and provided documents, including emails.

The league’s investigation marked the third of its kind centered on a team owner since Adam Silver became NBA commissioner in 2014 – all three cases led by Wachtell Lipton.

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