Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is currently being investigated by the NBA after allegations of his racist and misogynist behavior that created a toxic work environment, ESPN reports.
The investigation comes on the heels of a scathing, 7,000-word report published by ESPN on Thursday, written by Baxter Holmes who conducted interviews for over a year with more than 70 current and former Suns employees. Throughout the report, many recounted that Sarver continually and casually used racist language about Black players, coaches, and staff. Also included in the report was sexist and misogynistic behavior.
Anonymous staffers also said that Sarver routinely asked players about their sexual relationships, openly talked about sex with his wife, and passed around photos of her in a bikini while making lewd comments. One woman claimed that the work environment was so toxic that she contemplated suicide.
Earl Watson, former coach of the Suns, recalled one occasion, after a loss to the Warriors, that Sarver entered the coaches locker room and repeatedly said the N-word.
“You know, why does Draymond Green get to run up the court and say [N-word],” Sarver, who is white, allegedly said, repeating the N-word several times in a row.
“You can’t say that,” Watson, who is Black and Hispanic, told Sarver.
“Why?” Sarver replied. “Draymond Green says [N-word].”
“You can’t f—ing say that,” Watson said again.
Mike Bass, Executive Vice President of Communications of the NBA describes the claims against Sarver as “extremely serious” and added that Wachtell Lipton law firm will conduct a full investigation on behalf of the league.
“The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees,” Bass wrote in a statement. “Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”
Sarver said he would be in favor of any league inquiry into the allegations levied against him in a statement.
“I would entirely welcome an impartial NBA investigation which may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I’m so very proud,” Sarver said.
Jason Rowley, Suns Legacy Partners president and CEO, said they would “welcome any investigation by the League” into the allegations.
Suns’ minority owner Jahm Najafi said in a statement that he would also support any NBA investigation.
“The conduct he is alleged to have committed has stunned and saddened me and is unacceptable,” Najafi said of Sarver. “The well-being and safety of every Suns employee, player, coach, and stakeholder is first and foremost our priority. My sincerest sympathy goes out to all whose lives and professions have been impacted … Although today’s revelations fall under the jurisdiction of the League which decides and takes any action based on its finding, I offer my support to ensure there is full accountability.”
The National Basketball Players Association said it was “continuing to review” the allegations against Sarver.
“We view these allegations as serious and applaud the League’s decision to conduct an investigation,” the NBPA said in a statement. “We will defer any further comments until that process has been concluded.”
Watson responded to the report and the NBA investigation in a statement.
“Basketball and 17 years in the NBA has allowed me the financial privilege to speak my truth, but we can’t forget about those who must remain silent for fear of losing their jobs,” his statement read.
“Instead, I want to applaud the courage of the numerous players, executives, and staffers for fighting toxic environments of racial insensitivity, sexual harassment, and micro-aggressions with their truth,” he said. “This has been a traumatic experience, one that has affected me profoundly, and I am not willing to relive it every day.”