By Ryan Breece, Staff Writer
Phoenix Suns Majority Owner Robert Sarver, announced his plans to sell his stake in the team on Wednesday, Sept. 21. His decision follows a suspension issued by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and pressure from others around the league and in the Phoenix community.
The suspension is due to recent findings of an independent investigation into racist and sexist comments and actions made in the past.
The investigation, led by a combination of law firms, was prompted by a Nov. 2021 ESPN article detailing allegations of sex-related and racist comments. The report found broad violations in the organization, what the NBA refers to as “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies.” Specifically, the report found that from the time Sarver purchased the Suns in 2004 to the present, he used the N-word at least five times, refusing to stop after employees and colleagues asked him to. Furthermore, Sarver repeatedly made inappropriate remarks to female employees, including an insinuation of a breast augmentation and a reference to the size of his genitals while walking to the team shower.
The investigation and subsequent report released by the NBA confirms these allegations on account of direct witnesses, which resulted in a one year suspension from all NBA and WNBA games and team operations, as well as a $10 million fine.
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.””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,” Sarver responded.
After receiving the suspension, Sarver announced he would begin to hear from potential buyers. He currently owns 35% of the Suns, a share valued at around $630 million. Sarver became the majority owner of the Suns in 2004 when he bought them for $401 million.
Pressure from businesses and community advocates to sell the Suns was building following the suspension. PayPal announced they would not renew their jersey contract with the Suns if Sarver remained the owner. Minority owner Jahm Najafi called for Sarver to sell his share of the Suns after the report was released.
Members of Phoenix’s local government, including Mayor Kate Gallego and select city council members said they were appalled by the report and committed to launching their own investigation into Sarver’s conduct.
NBA superstar LeBron James expressed his pride to be part of a “league committed to progress,” and National Basketball Players Association President CJ McCollum thanked Sarver for making the decision to sell his stake in a swift manner.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver supported Sarver’s decision to sell. “This is the right next step for the organization and community.”
The next steps now include finding a bidder for majority ownership of the Suns organization, valued now at $1.8 billion but likely to be valued at upwards of $2 billion due to increased demand for NBA teams and a forthcoming media rights deal, according to Forbes.