Nov 5, 2021 - Sports

NBA to investigate Phoenix Suns owner after racism, misogyny allegations

Picture of Suns owner Robert Sarver

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver was the subject of a scathing ESPN report Thursday alleging nearly two decades of racism, misogyny and sexual harassment.

The backdrop: Sarver, a Tucson, Arizona-based banking and real estate mogul, bought the Suns in 2004 for a then-record $401 million.

  • The Suns have made the playoffs six times in 17 seasons under Sarver, and he's employed nine head coaches, including seven in an eight-season span.
  • Over 70 former and current team employees were interviewed for the report, many of whom described a toxic and sometimes hostile work environment.

What they're saying: The report includes stories of Sarver using the N-word, sharing stories of his wife performing oral sex on him, and other reprehensible behavior.

  • "There's literally nothing you could tell me about him from a misogynistic or race standpoint that would surprise me," said a former Suns executive.
  • "The level of misogyny and racism is beyond the pale," said one Suns co-owner. "It's embarrassing as an owner."
  • "If the commissioner comes in and investigates to see what the f--k is going on in Phoenix, [he] would be appalled," said a current employee.
  • "I don't like diversity," Sarver allegedly replied to former coach Earl Watson in 2016, when Watson, who is Black and Hispanic, said he felt the organization lacked diversity.

The other side: Sarver denied the allegations or otherwise explained them away as misunderstandings or poor attempts at humor.

  • "I've never called anyone or any group of people the N-word ... I don't use that word," he said through lawyers.
  • "None of what's been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like," said Suns GM and 14-year NBA veteran James Jones.

What to watch: The NBA has opened an investigation into Sarver. Seven years ago, former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the league after similar reports — and audio recordings — of racist and sexist behavior surfaced.

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