On Tuesday, September 13, Robert Sarver was fined $10 million and banned from the NBA for one year after the league released the findings of a 10-month independent investigation that interviewed 300 current and former employees. As the owner for the last 17 years of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Mercury, this qualifies as the same old same old from owners of professional sports teams. However, Sarver’s hubris seems extreme even amidst the group of entitled billionaires, placing him with such lousy company as Washington Generals’ Daniel Snyder and the LA Clippers’ Donald Sterling, whom the NBA booted in 2014.
Considering the high-profile pro-sports team owners have, it is hard to fathom what Sarver thought when he was cited as using the “N-word” on at least five separate occasions. This happened despite his staff reminding him it was a horrible word choice. Not only is the word itself one of the most hateful in the English language, but its user runs a business where 75% of the athletes are Black, and a sizable portion of the paying audience is also Black. Cutting off one’s nose to spite their face does not even begin to cover it.
Misogynistic behavior too
The investigation also found “instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees,” including “sex-related comments” and inappropriate remarks about employees’ appearances. There were other documented acts of misogyny as well. These, too, are beyond the pale of responsible employer behavior, and it is somewhat surprising that the owner lasted this long without facing lawsuits over it.
LeBron says it’s not enough
In light of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s announcement of the investigation and penalties, LeBron James quickly took to Twitter:
“Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself. I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.”
Suns point guard Chris Paul also pulled no punches on Twitter regarding his boss: “I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior.”
These are not victimless actions
Rich people misbehaving is tabloid fodder, but Sarver’s actions are also violent and aggressive behavior against victims. Sarver cooperated with the investigation but fought the penalties, thinking he did not deserve the punishment. James and other players kept the heat turned up, perhaps showing Sarver that his indefensible actions do have consequences.
Sarver picks investment bank Moelis & Company for team sale
Two days ago, reports came out that Sarver had chosen Moelis & Company to manage the Phoenix Suns’ sale. While the sale will likely stretch into 2023, it is expected to exceed $2.35 billion, which would surpass a record set by the Brooklyn Nets in 2019.