Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver said he’s going to sell the teams, a week after the NBA suspended him for one year and fined him $10 million following an investigation that uncovered racist and sexist workplace conduct.
Sarver said in a statement Wednesday that he’s unable to separate his controversy from the NBA and WNBA teams.
“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,” he said.
“Sarver also said: “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.”
Sarver said he deeply regrets using words that overshadowed his nearly two decades of building the organizations in Phoenix. He also said the “current unforgiving climate” make it impossible for him to move forward as owner.
“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,” Sarver said.
Sarver and his representatives could not be immediately reached Wednesday afternoon for additional comment.
The NBA last week barred Sarver from all NBA and WNBA buildings, “including any office, arena, or practice facility,” the league said in a statement.
He also isn’t allowed to participate in any NBA or WNBA event, represent the teams in any capacity, have involvement in any team business or basketball operations or play a role in any league governance, the NBA said.
The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed under league rules, the NBA said, and it is the biggest financial penalty ever handed down to one person in pro basketball history.
The league probe was sparked by a Nov. 4. ESPN article chronicling long-standing allegations of racism and misogyny within the Phoenix basketball operation.
The NBA commissioned a New York-based law firm, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, to lead the probe, and investigators interviewed 320 people, including current and former team employees.
Sarver, team management and employees “cooperated fully with the investigative process,” according to the NBA.
The probe found that Sarver, who has been managing partner of the franchise for 18 years, “on at least five occasions” repeated “the N-word when recounting the statements of others.”
He was also found to have “engaged in instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees, made many sex-related comments in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women,” the NBA found.
He also “engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees” that “constituted bullying,” the league found.
“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.