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Phoenix Suns owner suspended, fined by NBA for racist, sexist comments

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-09-14 10:29
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Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver takes images during a game against the Houston Rockets at Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona, USA, Feb 16, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES - Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has been suspended for one year and fined 10 million US dollars by the National Basketball Association (NBA) after an investigation into his misconduct in the workplace, said the league on Tuesday.

The NBA said in a statement that it commissioned an independent investigation following the publication of a November 4, 2021, article regarding statements and conduct of Robert Sarver, Managing Partner of the Phoenix Suns and the Women's National Basketball Association's Phoenix Mercury, and issues relating to the teams' workplace.

The report of the investigation "was based on information gathered from interviews with 320 individuals, including current and former employees who worked for the teams during Mr. Sarver's 18-year tenure as Managing Partner, Mr. Sarver, and other relevant individuals; and from the evaluation of more than 80,000 documents and other materials, including emails, text messages and videos," said the statement.

The independent investigation found that Sarver "engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and League rules and policies," said the statement, adding that "this conduct included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying."

The investigation noted that Sarver, on at least five occasions during his tenure with the Suns/Mercury organization, repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others.

Sarver 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, and on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees. He also engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees, including by yelling and cursing at them, according to the statement.

Sarver was fined 10 million dollars by the NBA, the maximum allowed by the league's constitution and by laws. The NBA will donate these funds to organizations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace.

The owner is suspended from the Suns/Mercury organization for a period of one year, during which time he will not be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility.

Sarver will not be allowed to attend any league events or represent the Phoenix Suns or Phoenix Mercury in any public or private capacity. He also can't have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of the teams. He must, during his suspension, complete a training program focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver pointed out in the statement that "the statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing."

"I am hopeful that the NBA community will use this opportunity to reflect on what this great game means to people everywhere and the values of equality, respect and inclusion that it strives to represent. Regardless of position, power or intent, we all need to recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior," noted Silver.

"On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators' report. We must do better," he concluded.

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