12:15 PM ET
Baxter Holmes ESPN Senior Writer
- Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print, focusing on the NBA. He has covered the Lakers, Celtics, and has previously worked for the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times.
Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns and WNBA Phoenix Mercury, due to Suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10 million for investigation of the Suns.
The NBA announced the penalty on Tuesday, saying an investigation found that Sarver used the N-word “at least five times while telling other people’s statements” during his time with the Suns and Mercury team. .
In a statement, the NBA said there were also “unfair conduct toward female employees,” including “sexual-related comments” and inappropriate comments about the appearance of employees.
The NBA commissioned a November 2021 report from ESPN detailing a racism and misogyny accusation over Sarver’s 17 years as owner investigation.
And NBA said Sarver “cooperated fully with the investigation process,” league sources told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarov Skye, he doesn’t accept the idea that his actions deserve a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine. The punitive part of the process has largely turned out to be intense, the sources said.
An investigation led by the New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton found that Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and league rules and policy.”
“While I disagree with some of the details in the NBA report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees,” Sarver said in the Suns’ report. said in a statement. “I take full responsibility for everything I do. I’m sorry for causing this pain, these errors of judgment do not align with my personal philosophy or values.
” I accept the NBA consequences of the decision. This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate my ability to learn and grow as we continue to build a work culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued.
The Suns said in a statement that they are “committed to creating a safe, respectful and inclusive work environment free from discrimination and harassment.” They added that “under the direction of senior leadership,” they “enhanced” their culture and “focused on creating an NBA announcement that included interviews with more than 320 current and former employees and Sarver.” It also examined more than 80,000 documents and other materials, including emails, text messages and videos. The report has been publicly released online.
“It was almost a slap in the face and showed us that the league really doesn’t stand for diversity, equity or inclusion,” a former employee interviewed by ESPN in early 2021 The Conservatives told ESPN. “I’m glad I got verified after being told I was crazy, a b—- and it was dramatic. It definitely took my breath away.
” But I’ I am very angry. When the league had the opportunity to stand up for its values, the league let us down. “
A current staffer who also did initial reporting with ESPN said, “I’m f–crazy. So do many others. “
During Sarver’s tenure, the investigation found him:
At least five times “repeated the N word in retelling someone else’s statement. “
” has unfair behavior towards female employees, in The workplace has repeatedly made sexually-related comments, made inappropriate comments about the appearance of female employees and other women, and repeatedly engaged in inappropriate physical behavior toward male employees. “
” demeaning and harsh treatment of employees, including They yelled and cursed. “
The press release states , the investigation “did not find Mr Sarver’s workplace misconduct was motivated by racial or gender-based hostility. “
The Suns allowed access to human resources records and thousands of internal emails, sources said. From London-based global accounting firm Deloitte and Chicago-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis also participated in the investigation.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, “The statements and actions described in the independent findings are disturbing and disappointing. Considering our comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to maintaining appropriate standards in the NBA workplace, we believe the results are correct, taking into account all facts, circumstances and context.
Silver continued, “I hope the NBA community will use this opportunity to reflect on what this great game means to people around the world and the equality, respect it strives to represent. and inclusive values. Regardless of position, power, or intent, we need to recognize the corrosive and damaging effects of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior. On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all those affected by the misconduct described in the investigators’ report. We must do better. “
The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed by the NBA, and the funds will be donated to “organizations that address racial and gender issues within and outside the league” in the workplace.”
During the period of suspension, Sarver shall not:
” appear in Any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility.”
“Attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including a game, practice, or business partner event.”
“Represents the Sun or Mercury in any public or private capacity.”
“Any relationship with the commercial or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury.”
“Participation in the NBA or WNBA, including attendance at or participation in either league’s board of directors (and its associated board committees).”
Sarver must also complete a work-focused A training program on site respect and appropriate behavior.
The Sun and Mercury organizations must also meet a number of workplace improvement requirements set forth and overseen by the NBA. These requirements include:
“Hire an outside firm to evaluate workplace training and make recommendations for programs, policies and procedures, as well as recruiting and compensation practices — with a focus on fostering a workplace that is diverse, inclusive and respectful.”
“Conduct regular and anonymous workplace culture surveys and respond to the findings with a concrete action plan.”
“Report immediately to the Alliance any instances or allegations of material misconduct by employees.”
“for a period of three years, regular reports are provided to the Alliance on measures taken by the organization to address These requirements.”
“Remedy as directed by the Alliance/If / Improve workplace problems when they arise.”
In interviews with Wacht’s attorneys for ell Lipton, most of which were conducted in person by phone and videoconference, Suns employees corroborated a series of allegations published in ESPN’s November report, introducing others and providing files, including emails.
The investigation also confirmed that “workplace misconduct by Suns employees was not directly related to Sarver and lacked appropriate organizational policies and controls.” It found instances of “racial insensitivity, abuse of female employees, inappropriate comments related to sex or sexual orientation, and disrespectful communication”. Historically ineffective and not a trusted resource for employees experiencing inappropriate workplace behavior. “
The league’s investigation marks the third such investigation since Silver became team owner. 2014 NBA Commissioner – All three cases were led by Wachtell Lipton.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski for this report.