Robert Sarver said he has begun the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, a move that comes just a week after he was suspended by the NBA for workplace misconduct including racist statements and Hostile behavior towards employees.
The decision was quickly welcomed by many – among them NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the National Basketball Players Association and even Sarver’s partners in the ownership group that operated the Suns and Mercury.
Sarver made the announcement Wednesday, saying selling “was the best course of action”, although he initially hoped he could retain control of the franchises – pointing to his filing that he claims, paints a completely different picture of who he is. what is and what does he represent.
“But in our current zero-tolerance landscape, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or still can do, are superior to what I have said in the past,” Sarver wrote in a statement. “For those reasons, I’m starting the process of finding a buyer for the Sun and Mercury.”
Silver said he “fully supports” Sarver’s decision.
“This is the right next step for the organization and the community,” Silver said.
Sarver bought the teams in July 2004 for about $400 million – then a record price for an NBA franchise. He is not the sole master of the Sun and Mercury, but the main master. Suns Legacy Partners LLC, the ownership group, said its work to create a “culture of respect and integrity” will continue.
“As we’ve shared with our employees, we acknowledge the courage of those who have come forward in this process to tell their stories and apologize to those hurt,” the partners said. know.
Assuming no other teams are sold in the interim, it would be the first sale in the NBA since a team led by Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith bought the Utah Jazz in 2021 for roughly 1.7 billion US dollars.
It is unknown if Sarver has set the asking price or not. Forbes recently estimated the value of the Suns at $1.8 billion. Any new owners will have to be inspected by the NBA, which is standard procedure.
An independent report commissioned by the NBA last November – following an ESPN report on Sarver’s workplace conduct – took about 10 months to complete. That investigation found that Sarver “repeated or intended to repeat the N-word at least five times during his tenure with the Sun”, although it added that the investigation “did not find that Sarver used this racially insensitive language for the purpose of demeaning or disparaging.”
The study also concluded that Sarver used demeaning language on female employees, including telling a pregnant employee that she would not be able to do her job after becoming a mother; making unflattering comments and jokes about gender and anatomy; and yelling and swearing at employees in ways that are considered bullying “by workplace standards.”
When that report was completed, Silver suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million — the maximum allowed by federal law.
“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that bring people together – and strengthen the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of football,” Sarver wrote. professional men’s and women’s baskets”. “As a person of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expect that the commissioner’s one-year suspension will give me time to focus, amend, and remove the controversy. personal controversy from the teams that I and so many of the people on, love the fans.”
Just a week later, Sarver clearly realized that was impossible.
His decision was made after a range of voices – from the likes of Suns Guard players Chris Paul and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, to longtime team sponsors like PayPal, and even the Allies. National Basketball Players Association – says a one-year suspension isn’t ‘t enough.
James reconsiders on Wednesday, shortly after Sarver’s statement went public: “I’m so proud to be part of a league committed to progress!” he tweeted.
Added retired NBA player Etan Thomas, also in a tweet: “Sarver is cashing out so it’s not really a punishment for him but certainly glad he’s leaving.”
NBPA President CJ McCollum said the union thanks Sarver “for making the quick decision in the best interest of our sporting community.”
Suns vice president Jahm Najafi last week called for Sarver’s resignation, saying there should be “zero tolerance” for lewd, thoughtless and racist behavior in any workplace. In that same statement, Najafi also said he has no intention of becoming the main owner of the team.
“I don’t want to disturb these two teams and the good people who have worked hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world,” Sarver wrote. “I want the best for these two organizations, the players, the staff, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone. .”
Sarver, through his attorney, argued with the NBA during the investigation that his record as the owner showed a “longstanding commitment to social and racial justice” and that shows he has a “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.” Among the examples Sarver cites are what he describes as the league’s best minority recruitment rate of 55% in the Suns main office and more than half of the team’s coaches and general managers. during his tenure — including current coach Monty Williams and current GM James Jones — was black.