Phoenix Suns issue statement in response to ESPN’s report of toxic culture

Dec 19, 2022, 7:19 PM | Updated: 7:45 pm
Phoenix Suns mascot "the Gorilla" performs before the NBA game at Footprint Center on October 27, 2...
Phoenix Suns mascot "the Gorilla" performs before the NBA game at Footprint Center on October 27, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns issued a statement in response to an investigative story published by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes on Monday.

The report stated that anonymous Suns and Mercury employees claimed several executives who have contributed to the teams’ toxic workplace culture remain employed despite owner Robert Sarver serving a suspension as he seeks buyers for the franchises.

One of those executives includes president and CEO Jason Rowley, according to Holmes.

Full team statement:

In September, at the conclusion of a full investigation, the NBA and an outside firm issued a comprehensive report on the workplace culture of Suns Legacy Partners, and we continue to do the work of using the report’s findings to grow and improve. We will continue to be accountable to our staff, partners, fans, players and the NBA, as we follow the NBA’s guidelines around workplace culture, including the creation of confidential, safe channels to anonymously report any issues. As we have said before, we are on a journey that began before last November, one that has included substantive changes to leadership, staff, policies and accountability measures.

At the beginning of this process, we encouraged all of our employees to participate in interviews for the NBA’s outside investigation and we have investigated issues raised within that report. We continue to encourage employees to utilize internal channels to report issues as they arise. To create a safe space for employee feedback and an environment of accountability, we fact-find related to each complaint on its merits. We will continue to keep any such investigations and their findings internal and confidential.

As we told the reporter of today’s story in reviewing his questions, there are factual inaccuracies not supported by the findings of already-completed internal or external investigations, including incorrect attribution of confidential claims made as part of the NBA investigation. That being said, as we move forward, we do so with the knowledge that we have not been a perfect organization. Our current leaders have taken accountability for the claims that have been substantiated through investigations. And all of us continue to be committed to learning, growing and upholding a culture of respect.

The Suns have maintained that they have preached change and fixed many of the HR holes found since the allegations of workplace misconduct by Sarver were confirmed in the independent investigation by the NBA-hired Wachtell Lipton law firm.

Holmes outlines in the report that the NBA gave the Suns a provision to “terminate or hire a new Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, or Chief Revenue Officer of either team.”

That would be chief financial officer Jim Pitman, chief revenue officer Dan Costello and Rowley.

“Both the sales process of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury and the review of alleged misconduct by others at the organization are ongoing,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement to ESPN.

“That review will remain an internal personnel matter.”

The latest group reported to have submitted a bid worth $3 billion to purchase both of the Phoenix franchises included a pair of venture capitalists with links to tech mogul Peter Thiel.

Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal, which is the Suns’ jersey patch sponsor.

The company issued a statement in the preseason that it would not renew its sponsorship if Sarver remained.

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