What to Know About the Robert Sarver Racism and Sexism Allegations

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Sarver, who owns the N.B.A.’s Phoenix Suns and the W.N.B.A.’s Phoenix Mercury, has been accused of utilizing radical slurs and making intersexual and different inappropriate comments.

Robert Sarver, the proprietor  of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, attended Game 2 of the 2021 W.N.B.A. Finals astatine  Footprint Center past  month.
Credit...Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Sopan DebKevin Draper

Nov. 4, 2021, 7:02 p.m. ET

The N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. person opened an probe into Robert Sarver, the proprietor of the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury hoops teams, aft existent and erstwhile employees accused him of racist, sexist and different inappropriate behaviour successful an ESPN report.

Sarver, who is white, was accused of often utilizing an anti-Black radical slur successful the beingness of and successful notation to employees and players, according to an ESPN report connected Thursday. Sarver was besides accused of saying different remarks that made Black employees uncomfortable and of making misogynistic and intersexual comments astir women successful the workplace, according to the report.

One erstwhile Suns worker recalled Sarver pulling the employee’s pants down successful beforehand of dozens of employees arsenic a joke.

After connection of ESPN’s probe into Sarver became nationalist 2 weeks ago, the Suns pre-emptively released statements denying that Sarver had a past of racism oregon sexism. Sarver, successful statements to ESPN for Thursday’s report, denied astir of the accusations successful the article.

Baxter Holmes, the ESPN newsman down the article, said much than 70 existent and erstwhile Suns employees were interviewed for the article. Most of the employees spoke anonymously astir their experiences moving for the team.

Here are the cardinal takeaways.

Sarver, 60, led the ownership radical that purchased the N.B.A.’s Suns and the W.N.B.A.’s Mercury from Jerry Colangelo successful 2004 for $401 million, past a grounds terms for an N.B.A. team. He had made his luck successful banking, arsenic the enforcement president of the Western Alliance Bank, and arsenic a founding spouse of Southwest Value Partners, a San Diego-based existent property firm.

Sarver has developed a estimation arsenic an progressive proprietor unafraid to gully attraction to himself with showy stunts similar dunking disconnected a trampoline during halftime oregon being thrown from a elephantine slingshot. He has besides expanded his sights beyond basketball, starring a radical that included Steve Nash, who played for the Suns for respective years, successful buying the Spanish shot nine Real Mallorca.

On aggregate occasions, Sarver batted down rumors that helium was considering selling the Suns. In 2018, helium reportedly demanded nationalist funding for a $230 cardinal renovation of the arena wherever the Suns and Mercury play, and threatened to determination the squad if helium didn’t get it. Sarver denied that helium had made the request and committed to keeping the squad successful Phoenix.

Sarver and the Suns person besides been the taxable of captious reporting by ESPN before. In 2019, ESPN reported that the Suns had “no discernible direction” and described Sarver arsenic an “interventionist proprietor with much authorization than expertise.”

The study paints a representation of a meddlesome proprietor who fostered a enactment situation that was toxic, particularly for women and Black people. The astir salient dependable successful the nonfiction was Earl Watson, who is Black and Hispanic and spent parts of 4 seasons successful assistant, interim and caput coaching roles with the Suns. He was fired successful 2017, 3 games into his 2nd play arsenic caput coach.

According to the report, Watson told ESPN that Sarver came into the coaches’ locker country aft 1 crippled “repeating the N-word respective times successful a row” successful discussing an opposing player’s usage of the connection connected the court. Watson recounted to ESPN that helium told Sarver, “You can’t accidental that.” At slightest six staffers told ESPN that they heard Sarver repetition the slur successful different instances.

Sarver, done his ineligible team, told ESPN helium had “never called anyone oregon immoderate radical of radical the N-word, oregon referred to anyone oregon immoderate radical of radical by the N-word, either verbally oregon successful writing.” He said helium had utilized the connection “once galore years ago” erstwhile helium was repeating what a subordinate had said but apologized.

In 2004, Sarver made “racially insensitive” comments successful an archetypal recruitment gathering with Nash, according to ESPN, which cited 3 unnamed radical who were successful the room. Nash, present the caput manager of the Nets, declined to remark to The New York Times connected Thursday.

Sarver was accused of making inappropriate comments astir sex. In 1 instance, Sarver, according to ESPN, told a large worker that she could not proceed her enactment successful coordinating an All-Star crippled due to the fact that she would request to bosom feed. Sarver denied these accusations.

In different instance, David Bodzin, a erstwhile Suns relationship executive, told ESPN that Sarver pulled Bodzin’s pants down successful beforehand of much than 60 employees arsenic portion of a charitable lawsuit successful 2014. Sarver apologized successful a connection to ESPN.

Several unnamed women successful the nonfiction recounted instances of Sarver’s comments making them consciousness uncomfortable successful the workplace.

Within days of Sarver’s purchase, the Suns were yet palmy successful their pursuit of Nash, instantly rejuvenating a squad that had a grounds of conscionable 29-53 successful the erstwhile season. The Suns made the Western Conference finals successful back-to-back seasons, nether the stewardship of Bryan Colangelo, the caput of hoops operations; Mike D’Antoni, the coach; and Nash.

After Nash led the Suns to the Western Conference finals successful 2010, the Suns began to unravel. Over the adjacent decade, the Suns missed the playoffs each year, cycling done coaches and executives. Since Sarver took implicit the squad successful 2004, the Suns person had 9 antithetic caput coaches. The playoff-less agelong from 2011 to 2020 was the longest successful franchise history.

Last year, the Suns made a astonishing tally to the N.B.A. finals, helped by a commercialized for constituent defender Chris Paul. They person regained a consciousness of organizational stableness since James Jones took implicit hoops operations successful 2018 and Monty Williams became manager successful 2019.

The Mercury, meanwhile, person been a perennial playoff team. They won championships successful 2007, 2009 and 2014, and mislaid to the Chicago Sky successful past season’s finals.

It’s unclear. Recordings emerged of Sterling, past the Clippers’ owner, making racist statements successful 2014, and helium was forced retired of the league.

In a connection to ESPN, the N.B.A. said that it had not “received a ailment of misconduct astatine the Suns enactment done immoderate of our processes, including our confidential workplace misconduct hotline oregon different correspondence.”

Sarver has denied astir each of the accusations against him successful the piece.

Both Sarver and Jason Rowley, the main enforcement of the institution that owns the Suns and the Mercury, released blistering statements denying the article’s claims and attacking ESPN and Holmes. Sarver said that determination was “so overmuch that is inaccurate and misleading” successful the study and added that “the N-word is not portion of my vocabulary.” He besides accused Watson of creating “an unprofessional and toxic ambiance successful our organization.” Both Rowley and Sarver wrote that they welcomed an probe from the N.B.A.

Jahm Najafi, a partial proprietor and vice president of the Suns and Mercury, said successful a connection that the behaviour described successful the ESPN communicative “stunned and saddened maine and is unacceptable,” and helium pledged to connection his “support to guarantee determination is afloat accountability.”

Watson, present an adjunct manager with the Toronto Raptors, said successful a connection done the squad connected Thursday that helium did not privation to prosecute successful an “ongoing conflict of fact.” His years successful the N.B.A. gave him the “financial privilege” to talk for the story, helium said, but galore others are soundless due to the fact that they fearfulness losing their jobs.

In the connection from the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. announcing the investigation, the leagues called the accusations successful the nonfiction “extremely serious.” The N.B.A. players’ national said successful a connection that it supported the N.B.A.’s investigation. The W.N.B.A. players’ national did not respond to a petition for remark from The Times.

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