Suns call unpublished story accusing owner Robert Sarver of sexism, racism full of ‘lies’
The Phoenix Suns have released a statement in response to a yet-to-be published ESPN story that, per sports reporter Jordan Schultz, includes accounts from former team employees that accuse owner Robert Sarver of racism, sexism and sexual harassment.
“We understand that ESPN is considering publishing a proposed story that makes completely baseless claims against the Suns Legacy Partners, LLC organization concerning a variety of topics,” the team released in a statement.
“Documentary evidence in our possession and eyewitness accounts directly contradict the (ESPN reporter’s) accusations, and we are preparing our response to his questions,” it added. “We urge everyone not to rush to judgment here. Especially based on lies, innuendo, and a false narrative to attack our organization and its leadership.”
The team released the statement after Schultz, who according to his Twitter bio is not currently employed by ESPN, said the NBA could forcibly remove Sarver due to the evidence included in the story.
“The NBA is preparing for a massive story accusing #Suns owner Robert Sarver of racism, sexism and sexual harassment in a series of incidents, sources say. With enough evidence to support such claims, there’s a real chance the league would forcibly remove Sarver,” Schultz wrote on Twitter.
Though the ESPN story has not been published, the Suns in response to Schultz’s tweet released a series of statements from Sarver, general manager James Jones and president and CEO Jason Rowley, which are included below:
Statement from Suns Legacy Partners, LLC Managing Partner Robert Sarver:
“I am wholly shocked by some of the allegations purported by ESPN about me, personally, or about the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations. While I can’t begin to know how to respond to some of the vague suggestions made by mostly anonymous voices, I can certainly tell you that some of the claims I find completely repugnant to my nature and to the character of the Suns/Mercury workplace and I can tell you they never, ever happened.
“First and foremost, I reject any insinuation of personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination. I despise language that disrespects any individuals, regardless of race, gender, preference, or choice. Such language has no place in business or at home in what I consider Suns and Mercury families. I am proud of our record of diversity and inclusion on both teams – whether on the court or in the front office.
“I don’t begin to know how to prove that something DIDN’T happen, and it is difficult to erase or forget ugly accusations once they are made. Even hints of racism or sexism in our culture today are toxic and damaging and should not be lightly raised. I categorically deny any and all suggestions that I used disparaging language related to race or gender. I would like to think that my actions and public record regarding race, gender, or discrimination of any kind, over a lifetime in business and community service, will adequately answer any questions anyone might raise about my commitment to equality and fairness.”
Statement from Phoenix Suns General Manager James Jones:
“None of what’s been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like – it just doesn’t.”
Statement from Jason Rowley, President and CEO, on behalf of Suns Legacy Partners, LLC:
“The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury organization takes very seriously our commitment to promoting a respectful, fun, competitive and enriching work environment, and we are proud of our track record relating to employee wellbeing. We also take seriously any allegations of racism, sexism, or harassment of any kind, which have no place in our organization and are not tolerated. With respect to recent reports about a forthcoming ESPN article regarding Robert Sarver and our organization, I will simply say that we are aware of the false narratives it contains, and plan to respond accordingly.
“This story is completely outrageous and false. It doesn’t represent – at all – the Robert Sarver I’ve worked alongside of for 15 years. He’s not a racist and he’s not a sexist. I will also say that reporter in this instance has shown a reckless disregard for the truth. He has harassed employees, former employees, and family members; used truths, half-truths and rumors to manufacture a story in which he’s heavily invested and then perpetuate a completely false narrative within the sports industry to back it up. His tactics throughout this process have been without any basis in journalism ethics or even morality.”
Sarver bought the Suns from former owner Jerry Colangelo in 2004, costing him $401 million, a record for an NBA franchise at the time.