Suns organization: Culture improving after Robert Sarver investigation
The Phoenix Suns and Mercury issued a promise to improve their workplace culture following the NBA’s suspension of owner Robert Sarver on Tuesday.
Sarver must spend a year away from any team activities or facilities and was fined $10 million by the league due to evidence of the owner using racist and misogynistic language.
Suns Legacy Partners, LLC, said in a statement it cooperated fully in the investigation that took nearly a year, adding it has mapped out ways to improve its workplace environment.
At the direction of senior leadership, we have strengthened our culture and focused on creating a workplace where everyone feels included and valued. These efforts include hiring new HR leadership, updating our employee handbook to clearly define our expectations for appropriate workplace behavior, adopting a strong code of conduct, instituting robust processes to report misconduct, and holding trainings on respect in the workplace and our corresponding policies and procedures. We nevertheless take seriously the NBA’s findings and will implement the workplace improvements the NBA has identified, to the extent that we have not yet done so.
Robert Sarver is also taking responsibility for his actions. He recognizes that at times during his eighteen years of ownership, his conduct did not reflect his, or the Suns’ values, and was inconsistent with the advancements the management team has taken with Robert’s full support.
We are proud of the progress we’ve already made, and moving forward, our organization will continue to build a best-in-class workplace.
Sarver, in a personal and separate statement, said he disagreed with some of the details in the NBA’s report but accepted accountability. He apologized for offending his employees and took responsibility, he said.
I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values.
I accept the consequences of the NBA’s decision. This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow as we continue to build a working culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued.
Sarver’s representatives issued the following:
The NBA’s independent investigation confirmed that none of Mr. Sarver’s actions or comments were based on racist, prejudiced, or misogynistic intent. These findings came after hundreds of witness interviews and the review of thousands of documents—including eighteen years of Mr. Sarver’s emails and personal text messages. The League also confirmed that there was no evidence, whatsoever, to support several of the accusations in ESPN’s reporting from November 2021. Finally, the NBA recognized that the Suns organization started improving its HR department and workplace culture long before the NBA’s investigation began.
The full report by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz can be viewed here.
The law firm said the Suns and Sarver cooperated with the investigation, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the owner was “unaccepting of the idea he deserved” the penalties of a suspension and fine.
The NBA first opened the investigation into Sarver and the Suns back on Nov. 4, 2021, following an ESPN article written by Baxter Holmes highlighting allegations of racist language and misogynistic comments by Sarver. Holmes said upward of 70 people were interviewed for the piece.
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz interviewed 320 people and evaluated over 80,000 pieces of email, video, text and other evidence to conclude its investigation.
The report said he “clearly violated common workplace standards” including “use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees, sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying.”