The sanctions against the owner of the Phoenix Suns are deemed insufficient by some stars.
« Our League was wrong », « penalties not up to par » … The NBA’s decision to suspend Phoenix owner Robert Sarver for one year for racist and misogynistic behavior was deemed insufficient by American basketball stars LeBron James and Chris Paul.
Almost a month before the start of the season, the North American Basketball League (NBA) is facing a new controversy. After an investigation, the NBA imposed a one-year suspension and a fine of ten million dollars (EUR 10 million) on Sarver, owner of the Suns but also of Mercury, a Phoenix franchise playing in the WNBA Women’s League.
Concretely, the 60-year-old businessman remains the owner of the two franchises, but can no longer run them during this period, nor attend meetings or even frequent the facilities of the NBA and the WNBA.
In question, his racist and sexist behavior, first revealed by the American television channel ESPN in November 2021, which was based on the testimony of more than seventy Suns employees.
The independent investigation commissioned by the NBA subsequently established that Sarver had « clearly violated » the rules of good conduct of the professional world and the League. He had in particular pronounced at least five times « the word nè *** », but also said to one of his employees, when she was pregnant, that she could no longer do her job properly if she became a mother.
He is also accused of having had an attitude of harassment, sexually connoted language and of having said « words that do not take racial sensitivities into account », according to the conclusions of the investigation.
Difference in treatment
But according to NBA and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, the “League got it wrong” in the degree of its sanction. “This kind of attitude has no place in this league, he wrote on his Twitter account. I love this sport and I deeply respect the leaders (of the NBA). But it’s not okay. Misogyny, sexism and racism have no place in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if you own a team or play for it. »
In hollow, it is a difference of treatment that criticizes « King James », due to the status of Sarver, also a minority shareholder of RCD Mallorca, a football club playing in the Spanish first division.
Even within the Arizona franchise, the NBA’s decision went badly. « I, like many others, have been made aware of the report, » Suns point guard Chris Paul wrote on Twitter. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This attitude, particularly towards women, is unacceptable and must not be reproduced. I am of the opinion that the penalties were not commensurate with what we can all consider to be atrocious behavior.”
Before Sarver, the Sterling case
Asked about the severity of the sanction, NBA boss Adam Silver fully assumed this decision: « The behavior (of Mr. Sarver) is indefensible and I think we have shown fairness. »
« I have no right to take him out of this franchise, » said Silver.
However, a precedent exists: in 2014, the NBA banned Donald Sterling, then owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, for life after the publication of private recordings in which he made racist remarks.
The NBA had forced him to sell his franchise and pay a fine of 2.5 million dollars, four times less than the ten million which Mr. Sarver must pay and which constitutes the maximum financial penalty authorized by the regulations. of the NBA.
Further up the West Coast, Portland basketball operations president Neil Olshey was fired in December 2021 for establishing a toxic work environment at the Oregon franchise.