Robert Sarver selling the Phoenix Suns. Here's what we're watching
Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver said Wednesday he was "beginning the process of seeking buyers" for the teams after being suspended by the NBA for one year for workplace misconduct, Axios' Jacob Knutson reports.
Why it matters: A report from an independent investigation earlier this month found that Sarver "repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others" and engaged in "inequitable conduct toward female employees," substantiating prior allegations.
- Sarver said in a press statement that, as a man of faith, he believes in atonement and forgiveness, and that he'd hoped the suspension would give him time "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," he said.
What he's saying: "Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together — and strengthened the Phoenix area — through the unifying power of professional men's and women's basketball," Sarver said.
- "For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury," he added.
Details: The Suns chose minority owner Sam Garvin last week, the team's vice president, to serve as interim governor during Sarver's suspension.
- "I respect Mr. Sarver's decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury," Garvin tells Axios.
- Suns Legacy Partners, which owns the team, said Sarver's decision is in the best interest of the community and the franchise and said the news "does not change the work that remains in front of us to create, maintain and protect a best-in-class experience for staff, players, fans, partners and community."
- NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a press statement that he respected Sarver's decision to sell the teams, calling it "the right next step for the organization and community."
Zoom out: Since the NBA announced Sarver's suspension, he's come under increasing pressure to part ways with the team.
- PayPal announced that it wouldn't renew its sponsorship with the Suns after this season if the embattled owner remained with the team.
- Suns star Chris Paul and Lakers superstar LeBron James were among the players who publicly criticized the suspension as too lenient.
- "I’m so proud to be a part of a league committed to progress!" James tweeted in response to the news.
What's next: It's unclear who might be in the running to buy the teams, and Garvin tells Axios that it's too early to speculate about the identity of potential buyers.
- Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi also declined to comment on who the next majority owner might be.
- Front Office Sports reported in November that former Disney CEO Bob Iger was interested in buying the Suns. Iger did not return a message from Axios.
Of note: Forbes valued the Suns at $1.8 billion last year, ranking it as the 18th-most valuable franchise in the league.
- Sarver owns a 35% share of the team, which he bought for $401 million in 2004.
A pipe dream: Greg Esposito, the vice president of content for local sports news site PHNX, has started a GoFundMe page to raise $1 billion to make Suns fans the majority owner (a la the Green Bay Packers).
- If he fails to reach that amount, he'll donate the funds to Time's Up Foundation, which fight against workplace harassment and discrimination.
You tell us: If you suddenly came into a whole bunch of money and bought the Suns, what would be the first change you'd make? (We might share some of your answers in a future newsletter!)
- Jeremy's idea: Work out a deal to give Filiberto's the naming rights to the arena.
- Jessica's idea: Nineties throwback jerseys all the time.
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