For bad behavior, the NBA fines and suspends the owner of the Phoenix Suns.
An investigation found that the owner, Robert Sarver, had used racial slurs and treated female employees unfairly. Sarver got a $10 million fine from the NBA.
The N.B.A. is suspending Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, for a year and fining him $10 million. This is because an investigation found that he did things like use racial slurs, yell at employees, and treat female employees unfairly.
Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, said in a statement, "The statements and actions described in the independent investigation's findings are troubling and disappointing."
He also said, "Regardless of position, power, or intention, we all need to be aware of how damaging and hurtful racially insensitive and demeaning words and actions are." On behalf of the NBA as a whole, I'm sorry to everyone who was hurt by the wrongdoing that was detailed in the investigators' report. We must do better."
Sarver is also the owner of the Phoenix Mercury of the W.N.B.A.
Sarver said in a statement that he was okay with what the NBA's decision would mean.
"Even though I disagree with some of the NBA's report's details, I'd like to apologize for my words and actions that hurt our employees," he said. "I'm responsible for everything I've done. I'm sorry to have hurt you, and these mistakes in judgment don't fit with my personal philosophy or my values."
The NBA started the investigation after an ESPN article in November 2021 said that Sarver had been mistreated. After the article came out, the league hired the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to look into the situation on its own.
On Tuesday, the company and the NBA released a 43-page report that said Sarver "clearly broke common workplace standards" by doing things like making inappropriate comments about the looks of female employees and bullying them. The report also says that on four occasions, he touched male employees in a way that was not appropriate.
More than 100 people who were interviewed by investigators said they saw Sarver do things that "violated applicable standards." According to the report, most employees thought Sarver didn't care about the rules at work.
According to the report, Sarver also made rude jokes, cursed at employees, and told a pregnant worker that she wouldn't be able to do her job once she had a child.
Witnesses said that Sarver said the employee would be "breastfeeding" and that "a baby needs their mom, not their dad." The report says that the employee cried after hearing Sarver's words. Sarver asked later "why do women cry so much?"
The report also says that Sarver "repeated the N-word when talking about what other people had said." During the 2012-13 season, Sarver used the word during a team-building activity. Players, coaches, and people from the front office were there. He also said it after a game in 2016 when he told one of the Suns' coaches that a Black player on the other team had used the word without getting a technical foul. Even after the Suns coach "reprimanded" Sarver for using the word, the report says, Sarver said it out loud several more times. He later sent an email to the NBA in which he used a form of the word.
The report says that Sarver made at least 20 crude sexual comments, and he also pulled down the shorts of another male employee in front of the team. Even though the employee wasn't completely out in the open, he felt bad about it.
And in 2015, the report says, he joked that the team's players should get pregnant by local strippers so that the players would feel more connected to the area. This could give the Suns an edge when trying to sign free agents.
During the investigation, Sarver tried to defend himself by talking about his work for social and racial justice and by saying that the Suns have hired more people of color than any other team in the league in their basketball operations department.
During the investigation, 320 people, including 202 current employees, 100 former employees, 12 minority owners of the team, and Sarver, were interviewed. Investigators said they looked at 51 videos of employee meetings and 80,000 pages of emails, texts, and other documents.
The worst punishment the NBA has ever given to a team owner was in 2014, when the league banned Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million. At the time, Sterling owned the Los Angeles Clippers. In a private conversation, Sterling had been caught saying things that were racist.
Silver said at the time that the punishment was based on just that one incident and that he would try to get the league's board of governors to end Sterling's ownership.
Rochelle Sterling, who was Sterling's wife at the time, sold the team for $2 billion, even though Sterling tried to stop the sale.