Al Sharpton pressures NBA to end Sarver investigation, bring home Griner
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton released another public statement on Monday pushing the NBA to act more swiftly in finishing the ongoing investigation into the Phoenix Suns’ team culture fostered by owner Robert Sarver. He also linked that sluggishness to the professional men’s basketball league’s push to bring Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner home and out of a Russian prison.
“It is incomprehensible that the NBA has remained largely silent on both Brittney Griner and Robert Sarver,” Sharpton said in a statement given to Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck. “These issues are not unrelated to each other — not just because Robert Sarver is also the owner of the Phoenix Mercury, Brittney’s team, but also because they have everything to do with fairness and justice in an organization that claims to care about these principles.
“Enough is enough. I was patient when the NBA told me the Sarver investigation would be wrapped up by April; but April came and went. Then they told me in June to wait a few more weeks; but June came and went. It is now (almost) August, and not only is there no end in sight on the Sarver investigation, but the league has also failed to step up to help bring Brittney home. My patience has run out. I am calling on the NBA to help us bring Brittney home, wrap this investigation up and send a message that Robert Sarver and his hateful behavior have no place in this organization.”
Sharpton first issued a statement pushing the NBA to act on the Suns owner’s allegedly inappropriate behavior in March, well after ESPN’s Baxter Holmes published details of alleged racism and misogyny in November.
He has since acted alongside Griner’s wife, Cherelle, in bringing awareness to Griner’s status that the U.S. government has labeled as a wrongfully detained American overseas.
More than 70 former and current Suns employees were interviewed in Holmes’ story.
Sarver has denied any wrongdoing.
“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,” Sarver said in a statement when the investigation began. “I categorically deny any and all suggestions that I used disparaging language related to race or gender.”
Holmes reported on March 4 that lawyers investigating the case for the NBA interviewed more than 300 people and were preparing to question Sarver, who has denied the allegations.
Sharpton said in March he intended to not let people forget about the allegations. He told NBA officials that he would bring demonstrations to the Valley in April if no actions or timetables were released.
Griner has been jailed since she was arrested in mid-February at a Moscow airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage. The Mercury standout and two-time Olympic gold medalist acknowledged in court this month that she had the canisters, but said she had no intent to break the law.
Some NBA players and commissioner Adam Silver have joined their WNBA counterparts in keeping Griner at the forefront of the news cycle in recent months by pressuring President Joe Biden and others to work toward her safe return to the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.