Accused of racism and misogyny, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, to put franchise up for sale

In an untenable situation, Robert Sarver, whose departure is demanded by many voices deeming his one-year suspension by the NBA insufficient for racist and misogynistic behavior, will sell the Phoenix Suns franchise, which will not lack candidates for its reprise. Under pressure from all sides – players, officials, managers, partners – less than a month from the start of the season, Sarver finally gave in, not without expressing his bitterness in a press release published on Wednesday.

« Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building an organization that has brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of basketball.“, first lamented the future-ex owner of a franchise which also includes the Mercury women’s team playing in the WNBA.

« I expected the one-year suspension to give me time to make amends and ward off controversy (…) But in the current unforgiving climate, it has become clear that this is not more possible, that all the good that I have done, or that I could still do, is overtaken by things that I have said in the past« , he continued. « For these reasons, I have begun the process of finding buyers for the Suns and the Mercury“, he concluded.

Sarver was accused of racist, misogynistic and sexist behavior in an investigation released in November 2021, conducted by sports media giant ESPN, backed up by testimony from more than 70 franchise employees.

Mandated after the fact by the NBA, an independent commission of inquiry established that the leader had « clearly violated » the rules of good conduct. In particular, he had pronounced the word « nè*** » at least five times, but also told one of his employees, then pregnant, that she could no longer do her job properly if she became a mother. She is also accused of having had an attitude of harassment, of using sexually connoted language and of having said « words disregarding racial sensitivities« , according to the findings.

Widespread relief prevails after Sarver’s decision. First, franchise employees. « We can move forward without the pain and anxiety caused by his leadership“, told one of them to ESPN. From the Suns Legacy Partners group, then, who manages the two teams, for whom this decision was “in the best interest of the organization« . And to greet « the courage of the people who came forward » with which « there is still work to do and relationships to rebuild« .

Of the NBA, finally, and of its boss Adam Silver, under the fire of criticism because of his sanction taken, considered insufficient, he who had not hesitated in 2014 to banish for life Donald Sterling, the former owner of Los Angeles Clippers, after the publication of private recordings in which the latter made racist remarks. He then had to sell his franchise and pay a $2.5 million fine. « I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the Suns and Mercury. This is the next step that is appropriate for the club and the community“, he reacted laconically.

Sarver had acquired the franchise from Phoenix in 2004 for $401 million, as the main shareholder, with a 30% stake. It is now valued at $ 1.92 billion by the specialized media Sportico, which ranks it 18th out of the 30 clubs that make up the NBA. And its attractiveness is hardly in doubt in the eyes of many observers.

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