Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver suspended, fined $10 million after investigation finds ‘clear violation’ of workplace standards

Robert Sarver, owner of NBA Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercurywas suspended for a year and fined $10 million by the NBA as a result of a federation investigation into the Suns franchise.

The NBA announced the penalty on Tuesday, saying its investigation found that during his work with the Sun and Mercury, Sarver used the N word at least five times “when recounting the narrative.” of others.”

The NBA said in its statement there were also “instances of unfair treatment of female employees,” including “sexually related comments” and inappropriate comments about the appearance of female employees. Staff.

The NBA has commissioned an investigation after ESPN published a story in November 2021 details allegations of racism and prostitution during his 17 years as owner of Sarver.

While the NBA claims that Sarver “co-operates fully with the investigation,” league sources told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarowski that he does not accept the idea that he deserves a suspension. suspended for a year and fined $10 million for his conduct. The punitive part of the process gets harsh, sources say.

The investigation led by New York-based law firm Wachtell Lipton found that Sarver “engaged in clear violations of common workplace standards, as reflected in the rules and team and league books.”

The investigation includes interviews with more than 320 current and former employees as well as Sarver, the NBA announced. It also examines more than 80,000 documents and other documents, including emails, text messages, and videos. Report has been made online publicity.

During Sarver’s tenure, the investigation revealed that he:

  • On at least five occasions “repeats the word N when retelling someone else’s story.”

  • “Participating in cases of unequal behavior against female employees, making numerous gender-related comments in the workplace, making inappropriate comments about female and female employees’ physical appearance. other female employees, and occasionally engage in inappropriate physical behavior toward male employees.”

  • “Being demeaning and rude to employees, including yelling and swearing at them.”

These sources said that the Sun has granted access to personnel records and thousands of internal emails. Experts from Deloitte, a global accounting firm with headquarters in London, and from Kirkland Ellis, a law firm based in Chicago, are also involved in the investigation.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in the statement, “The statements and conduct described in the results of the independent investigation are disturbing and disappointing. We believe the results are correct, taking into account all of them. events, circumstances, and contexts come to light in this comprehensive investigation over this 18-year period and our commitment to upholding consistent standards in NBA workplaces. “

Silver continued, “I hope that the NBA community will use this opportunity to reflect on what this great game means to people everywhere and the values ​​of equality, respect, and inclusion. Regardless of position, power or purpose, we all need to recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of language and behavior that is insensitive and demeaning. On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to everyone affected by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report. We must do better.”

The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed by the NBA, and the money will be donated to organizations that “address racial and gender issues in and out of the workplace.”

During his suspension, Sarver cannot:

  • “Be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, gymnasium, or practice facility.”

  • “Attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including a game, practice, or business partnership activity.”

  • “Represent the Sun or Mercury in any public or private capacity.”

  • “Has anything to do with the Suns or Mercury’s basketball or business.”

  • “Having any connection with the business, administration, or activities of the NBA or WNBA, including attending or participating in meetings of the federation’s Board of Directors (and its associated Board committees). their end).”

Sarver must also complete a training program that focuses on respect and appropriate workplace behavior.

The Suns and Mercury organization must also meet a series of workplace improvement requirements set and overseen by the NBA. These requirements include:

  • “Retain an outside company to evaluate and make recommendations regarding workplace training programs, policies and procedures as well as recruitment and compensation practices – focusing on promote a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace.”

  • “Perform regular and anonymous workplace culture surveys and respond to survey results with specific action plans.”

  • “Report immediately to the union any case or allegation of substantial misconduct by any employee.”

  • “Over a three-year period, provide the federation with regular reports regarding the steps the organization has taken to address these requests.”

  • “Follow the union’s direction to fix/improve workplace issues if/when they arise.”

In interviews with Wachtell Lipton’s attorneys, some conducted in person, by phone and via videoconference, Suns employees confirmed a series of allegations published in the story. November’s ESPN, recommending others and providing materials, including email.

The investigation also demonstrated instances of “workplace misconduct by Suns employees that was not directly related to Sarver and the lack of appropriate organizational controls and policies.” It found cases of “racial insensitivity, mistreatment of female employees, inappropriate comments related to gender or sexual orientation, and disrespectful communication.”

It also found that the team’s human resources department was “historically ineffective and not a reliable resource for employees exposed to workplace misconduct.”

The league’s investigation marks the third of its kind to focus on a team owner since Adam Silver became an NBA commissioner in 2014 – with all three cases led by Wachtell Lipton.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report

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