Robert Sarver announces he will seek buyers for Phoenix Suns, Mercury
Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver announced Wednesday that he will sell the organization, citing it is “what’s best” after the NBA suspended him and fined him on findings of workplace behavior that included racist language, misogyny and bullying.
Sarver said that he first expected to reflect and self-improve himself during a one-year suspension from the team, but the “unforgiving climate” has made it clear a return will not allow for the teams to move forward.
Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball.
As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.
But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.
I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.
In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together.
The NBA last week suspended Sarver one year and fined him the maximum $10 million after concluding an investigation into allegations he used racist and misogynistic language in the workplace.
Since, PayPal took the notable step of announcing it would not renew its partnership with the Suns — it owns ad space on the team logo — if Sarver were to return.
Interviewing 320 individuals and evaluating more than 80,000 documents, the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz concluded that Sarver “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.”
Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz said that the “investigation makes no finding that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus.”
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.
The Suns organization issued the following in response to the owner’s suspension:
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.