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NBA Investigating Phoenix Suns’ Owner for Egregious Behavior

In the last few weeks, ESPN published a report detailing offensive behavior from Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns basketball team. ESPN interviewed more than 70 former and current Suns employees. Those employees described a toxic work environment where Sarver repeatedly used “racially insensitive language.” Sarver, a white male, allegedly called Black basketball players the N-word on multiple occasions. He also reportedly engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior, including passing around a picture of his wife in a bikini to employees and sharing that his wife performed oral sex on him. He allegedly suggested he “owned” women who worked for him. Referring to Sarver, another Suns’ owner said, “The level of misogyny and racism is beyond the pale.” Employees told ESPN that Sarver was not the only person in management to behave this way. They believe Sarver’s conduct “contributed to a culture that affected how some other managers within the organization” treated employees.

Sarver denied ever calling or referring to anyone by the N-word saying, “I don’t use that word. It is abhorrent and ugly and denigrating and against everything I believe in.” The sole individual to go on the record for the ESPN piece is former coach Earl Watson. He described an incident when Sarver used the N-word to speak about a specific player. When responding to the article, Sarver said Watson was the one who created “an unprofessional and toxic atmosphere.” The general manager of the Suns and the president/CEO both denied the allegations against Sarver.

The NBA said the league never received any complaints about Sarver. However, the NBA has launched an investigation and announced they hired an independent law firm to investigate the “extremely serious” allegations. The league will base any action on the results of the law firm’s report.