Embattled basketball team owner Robert Sarver, suspended after a recent independent investigation found he engaged in hostile, racially insensitive and inappropriate behavior, announced Wednesday he will sell the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Mercury.
The NBA last week suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million as a result of the investigation.
“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball,” Sarver, the managing partner of both teams, said in a statement.
Sarver had hoped the suspension would “provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy,” the statement went on.
“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” he said. “For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he fully supported the decision.
“This is the right next step for the organization and community,” the commissioner said.
A report detailing the investigation, commissioned by the NBA last fall after an ESPN report about Sarver’s alleged behavior, found he had “on at least five occasions during his tenure with the Suns/Mercury organization, repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others.”
Additionally, according to the report, Sarver “engaged in instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees, made many sex-related comments in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women, and on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees.”
Sarver apologized after the report’s release, though he noted he disagreed with “some of the particulars.”
Suns Legacy Partners, which operates the NBA and WNBA teams, said the decision to sell is best for the organization and community.
“We also know that today’s news does not change the work that remains in front of us to create, maintain and protect a best-in-class experience for our staff, players, fans, partners and community,” the group said in a statement. “While we are proud of our progress and the culture of respect and integrity we are building, we know there remains work to do and relationships to rebuild.”
NBA players like LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, Suns guard Chris Paul and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green had criticized the league, saying they felt the sanctions fell far short of what should have been levied.
Sarver could no longer represent the NBA, Green said Tuesday on his podcast, adding the behavior outlined in the report went “against everything that the NBA stands for.”
“The NBA stands for inclusion. The NBA stands for diversity. The NBA definitely stands against bigotry and racism …This report that came out last week is the total opposite of everything that the NBA stands for,” Green said on “The Draymond Green Show.”
The Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi had also called on Sarver to resign, and the team’s jersey sponsor, PayPal, threatened to not renew their deal with the team if Sarver remained as owner.
After Sarver’s announcement was released Wednesday, James said in a tweet he was “so proud to be a part of a league committed to progress!”
National Basketball Players Association President CJ McCollum, who plays for New Orleans, said, “We thank Mr. Sarver for making a swift decision that was in the best interest of our sports community.”