NBA to investigate Phoenix Suns owner after racism, misogyny allegations
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.