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Disgraced Suns, Mercury owner Robert Sarver plans to sell teams

Sportsnaut
Apr 19, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver against the New Orleans Pelicans during game two of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Sarver disclosed plans to sell the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury basketball franchises following the release of a damning report of his workplace conduct corroborating claims of harassment and inappropriate behavior.

“Whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury,” Sarver said in a statement issued Wednesday, adding that he didn’t want to become “a distraction.”

The NBA suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10 million last week after an independent investigation into allegations he created a toxic work environment in Phoenix. That report found that Sarver used the “N-word” at least five times, sexually harassed female employees, and yelled and cursed at workers during nearly two decades of ownership.

A chorus of critics grew louder in the past week to include NBA All-Stars Chris Paul — who plays for the Suns — and LeBron James, Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi, who owns the second-largest share of the team and jersey sponsor PayPal, which said it would “not renew our sponsorship should Robert Sarver remain involved with the Suns organization, after serving his suspension.”

That deal, which also includes the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, began in 2018 and expires following the 2022-23 season.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio reiterated her call for Sarver’s permanent removal on Friday.

Tremaglio told ESPN, “We are absolutely calling for (a lifetime ban). We do not want him to be in a position where he is managing or engaging with individuals who are engaging with our players or the players themselves. We are absolutely clear from the findings that are in the report that we do not want him to be in that position.”

On Wednesday, Tremaglio had issued a statement that read in part, “I have made my position known to (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again.”

Sarver said Wednesday that his faith affords a belief in “atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.”

READ SARVER’S FULL STATEMENT BELOW:
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.

As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me 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. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.

In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together.

–Field Level Media