The NBA on Tuesday suspended Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for a year after a months-long investigation into allegations of misconduct. Sarver was also fined $10 million, with the money going to causes that fight gender and race-based harassment.
Sarver, 60, was found to have made racist comments as well as insensitive comments about and to female employees. Sarver, co-founder of real estate development company Southwest Value Partners, also owns the WNBA team Phoenix Mercury.
In November, ESPN reported on Sarver’s misconduct. According to the article, Sarver reportedly stormed into the locker room after a Suns loss in 2016. He allegedly said the N-word multiple times and defended his behavior when confronted.
“[NBA player] Draymond Green says [the N-word],” Sarver reportedly once said. He then reportedly asked former Suns coach Earl Watson why he could not have the same liberty as Green.
The league’s investigation came in the aftermath of the ESPN report. The NBA hired the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, which reviewed nearly 80,000 documents and collected 320 testimonial accounts from current and former employees.
According to the league’s report, Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards.”
Both the ESPN article and the NBA’s investigation found Sarver’s pattern of abuse created a toxic work environment.
In addition to “inequitable conduct toward female employees,” he engaged in inappropriate conduct toward male employees. Sarver allegedly would yell and curse at employees on several occasions.
The league’s report noted the Suns’ human resources department failed the employees it was meant to protect, despite multiple complaints.
“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
He added that the league was committed to fostering respectful workplace standards.
“I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report. We must do better,” Silver said.
During his suspension, Sarver will complete a training program on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace, the league said Tuesday in a statement.
The league has also instituted a series of guidelines for the Suns, including expanding diversity and inclusivity and handling workplace issues with greater urgency.
Sarver has owned the Suns since 2004. He bought the club for a then-record $401 million. Sarver has an estimated net worth of $800 million.
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