Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has been suspended for a year and fined $10 million by the NBA following the league’s investigation into the franchise. Suns.
The NBA announced the punishment on Tuesday, saying its investigation found that during his time with the Suns and Mercury organization, 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.
The NBA commissioned an investigation after ESPN published an article in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.
While the NBA said Sarver “cooperated fully with the investigative process,” league sources told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarowski that he doesn’t accept the idea that he deserves an investigation. one-year suspension and a $10 million fine for his behavior. The punitive part of the process has become largely acrimonious, sources said.
The investigation, conducted by New York law firm Watchell Lipton, found that Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as evidenced by the rules and policies of the team and league”.
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 report was made public online.
During Sarver’s tenure, investigation revealed that he:
On at least five occasions, “repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others”.
“Engaged in cases of unfair conduct towards female employees, made numerous gender-related comments in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women, and on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical conduct towards male employees.”
“Engaged in degrading and harsh treatment of employees, including shouting and swearing at them.”
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.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in the statement, “The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing. We believe the result is the correct one, considering all of the facts. , circumstances and context brought to light by the thorough investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to maintaining appropriate standards in NBA workplaces.”
Silver continued, “I hope the NBA community takes 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 for. Regardless of position, power or intent, all of us must recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior. NBA, I apologize to all those affected by the misconduct described in the investigators’ report. We need to do better.
The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed by the NBA and the funds will be directed to “addressing race and gender issues in and out of the workplace.”
While suspended, Sarver cannot:
“Be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility.”
“Attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including games, practices, or business partner activities.”
“To represent the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity.”
“Being involved in Suns or Mercury basketball business or operations.”
“Being involved in the business, governance, or activities of the NBA or WNBA, including attending or participating in meetings of either league’s board of directors (and their board committees). associated administration).”
Sarver must also complete a training program that focuses on respect and proper conduct in the workplace.
The Suns and Mercury organization must also meet a series of workplace improvement requirements set and monitored by the NBA. These requirements include:
“Engage an outside firm to evaluate and make recommendations regarding workplace training programs, policies and procedures, and hiring and compensation practices, with an emphasis on promotion of a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace.
“Carry out regular, anonymous workplace culture surveys and respond to survey results with specific action plans.”
“Report to the league immediately any instance or allegation of material misconduct by any employee.”
“For a period of three years, provide the league with regular reports on the measures taken by the organization to meet these requirements.”
“Follow league guidelines to remedy/improve workplace issues if they arise.”
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 investigation also documented instances of “workplace misconduct by Suns employees who were not directly related to Sarver and a lack of appropriate organizational policies and controls.” He found instances of “racial insensitivity, mistreatment of female employees, inappropriate comments related to gender or sexual orientation, and disrespectful communications.”
He also found that the team’s human resources department was “historically ineffective and not a trusted resource for employees who were victims of acts of inappropriate workplace conduct”.
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.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report
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