Updated Sep 13, 2022 - Sports

NBA suspends Suns owner Sarver over workplace misconduct

 Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends 2021 WNBA Finals.
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury basketball teams, has been suspended for one year after an independent investigation found he engaged in workplace misconduct, the NBA announced Tuesday.

Driving the news: The investigation found Server "repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others" and engaged in "inequitable conduct toward female employees," among other offenses, the league said.

  • The investigation found Sarver also "made many sex-related comments in the workplace" and "inappropriate comments on the physical appearance of female employees and other women," per the NBA.
  • Sarver also "engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees" on several occasions, the league said.
  • He also yelled and cursed at employees, the league added.

Worth noting: "The investigation made no finding that Mr. Sarver’s workplace misconduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus," the NBA said.

What they're saying: Sarver issued a statement Tuesday afternoon about the investigation, saying he "accept[s] the consequences of the NBA’s decision."

  • "While I disagree with some of the particulars of the NBA’s report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees," Sarver said. "I take full responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values."
  • Suns Legacy Partners, the company belonging to Sarver that owns the teams, said in a statement emailed to Axios that the "NBA’s findings concerning the organization focus, for the most part, on historical matters that have been addressed in recent years, including through meaningful enhancements to our workplace compliance program."
  • The Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement to Axios that "the report findings clearly show that Mr. Sarver has perpetrated egregious acts of racism and misogyny and should no longer be welcome in the back office or on the sidelines."

Zoom in: The investigation was led by an outside law firm and included interviews with 320 people and a review of more than 80,000 records.

  • The probe also confirmed "instances of workplace misconduct engaged in by Suns employees that were not directly related to Mr. Sarver," the NBA said.
  • Employees in the organization engaged in "racial insensitivity, mistreatment of female employees, inappropriate commentary related to sex or sexual orientation, and disrespectful communications," per the league.

What's next: Sarver will be fined $10 million, which is the maximum amount permitted by the league.

  • The NBA said it will donate these funds to organizations "committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace."

Flashback: The investigation began after an ESPN report in November 2021 revealed years of alleged racism, misogyny, and sexual harassment within the Suns organization.

  • Former and current team employees described a toxic work environment in the report.

The big picture: The NBA opened an investigation into former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on allegations of racist and sexist behavior back in 2014. The owner was then banned from the league.

Go deeper: NBA to investigate Phoenix Suns owner after racism, misogyny allegations

Editor's note: This story has been updated with statements from Sarver, Suns Legacy Partners, and Sharpton.

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