Robert Sarver initiates the sales process of Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury

Amid mounting pressure from NBA players, sponsors and local government officials and following his one-year suspension for using racist and misogynistic language, Robert Sarver announced Wednesday plans to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury of the WNBA.

The 60-year-old real estate developer said in a statement that he doesn’t want to be a “distraction” and that he “wants the best” for organizations.

“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the way of forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would give me time to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love, “Sarver said.” But in our current ruthless climate, it has become painfully clear that this is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is offset by the things I have said in the past. For these reasons, I am beginning the process of finding buyers for the Suns and Mercury. ” .

Adam Silver was the “good” commissioner. Why was he defending the bad guys?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended Sarver for a year and fined him up to $ 10 million last week following the conclusion of a lengthy workplace conduct investigation initiated in the wake of an ESPN.com article in November. Silver, however, paused before issuing a lifetime ban on Sarver, a punishment the commissioner previously inflicted on former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014 for his racist comments.

Prominent NBA stars such as LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green, as well as National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio, denounced Sarver’s behavior and suggested that Silver’s punishment didn’t go far enough, and PayPal said he would not have renewed his contract as a sponsor of the Suns jersey after this season if Sarver had stayed with the team, which he has owned since 2004. Jahm Najafi, minority owner of the Suns, and civil rights activists such as the Rev. Al Sharpton called for Sarver’s resignation, while Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and city council members released a statement saying they were “shocked” by his behavior and planned to conduct their own investigations.

With the 2022-23 season opening next month and team media days starting on Sunday, Sarver’s decision to pursue a sale of the Suns was greeted with relief across the league, given his strong initial denials of the ESPN.com allegations and his reputation for stubbornness. Although he apologized after Silver suspended him, Sarver disputed some of the report’s findings and his legal representatives continued to quibble over some of the allegations. Some observers feared that Sarver would intervene, like Sterling, thus creating a long power struggle for the future of the Suns and an unsustainable daily existence.

“I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the Phoenix Suns and the Mercury,” Silver said in a statement Wednesday. “This is the right next step for the organization and the community.”

Silver noted last week that he does not have the power as commissioner to unilaterally take the Suns from Sarver. Instead, the NBA’s Board of Governors should have voted out Sarver by a three-quarter majority, a difficult and time-consuming proposal that could have resulted in litigation on Sarver’s part. The NBA’s decision to publicly publish the investigators’ report, however, has exposed Sarver to widespread criticism and outrage. In the past, similar investigative reports have been summarized by the league, rather than fully published.

“I am so proud to be part of a league committed to progress,” James tweeted on Wednesday.

“We thank Mr. Sarver for making a quick decision that was in the best interest of our sports community, ”NBPA President CJ McCollum said in a statement.

Investigators from the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz documented a long list of workplace misconduct violations in a 43-page report, including Sarver using the n word on at least five occasions, repeated examples of sexist behavior and multiple incidents in which Sarver exposed himself to employees.

According to witnesses, Sarver used the n word when recruiting a free agent in 2004, during a team building exercise in 2012 or 2013, after an October 2016 game against the Golden State Warriors and while telling a story about it. that a player’s family member had said as he boarded the team’s plane. According to two witnesses, Sarver quoted the family member as saying: “The whites at the front, [n-words] on the back. “Investigators found that Sarver, who is White, continued to use the insult for years despite repeated warnings from colleagues that doing so was inappropriate.

Sarver’s transgressions against female employees included telling one she had to stop working on an assignment because her child “needs their mom, not their father”, asking another if she got “an update” – a euphemism for a breast augmentation – and telling another that she “had never seen anything this big” while he was preparing to shower at the team facilities. In another incident, he scolded an employee for her performance in 2011, objected when she started crying, and later held a lunch for four employees which was perceived by attendees as a means of strengthening them.

Investigators attributed some of Sarver’s behavior to his “secondary and inappropriate” sense of humor and his “lack of filters,” but documented incidents that repeatedly overstepped the harassment line. While receiving a “fitness check” from a male employee, Sarver “unnecessarily dropped his underwear” as the employee knelt in front of him, exposing himself. Sarver also danced “pelvis to pelvis” with a male employee at a party, pulled down a male employee’s pants in front of colleagues at a 2014 charity event, and asked at least one player on the 2009-2010 team personal grooming habits.

Under the terms of his suspension, Sarver has been barred from participating in all NBA and WNBA games and from team facilities, cannot appear at public events on behalf of the WNBA’s Suns or Phoenix Mercury, and cannot be involved in operations. of its organizations or league matches. Sam Garvin, the Suns’ longtime minority owner, has replaced Sarver on an interim basis.

“The racist old boys club in professional sports is officially closed,” Sharpton said in a statement. “A new era is upon us in which it is intolerable to see black players as property. Sarver’s decision today is the first step on the long road to justice for the Suns and Mercury: the staff, the players and the fans. It is now imperative that the NBA, both teams, corporate sponsors and the new owner, whoever they are, follow through on a pledge to eradicate racism, misogyny and hatred. “

During his tenure, Sarver was known as a thrifty, and sometimes combative owner who struggled to field the winning teams following the initial success of the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns, who reached the Western Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006 Phoenix missed the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2020, as Sarver cycling through coaches, hired and fired executives, and repeatedly eliminated in the NBA draft. During a particularly tumultuous time, Sarver sacked manager Earl Watson just three games in the 2017-2018 season and then sacked his full-time replacement, Igor Kokoskov, after one season.

There have been many misadventures along the way. In 2014, Sarver apologized to Suns fans that the San Antonio Spurs had chosen to rest several stars during a game in Phoenix. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich responded bluntly by saying that Sarver should have been wearing a “chicken suit” during his speech. In 2017, sun guard Eric Bledsoe famously tweeted “I don’t want to be here,” a commercial request she later claimed was a reference to her boredom at a hair salon. Then, in 2019, Sarver allegedly put live goats in his general manager’s office in what was apparently a motivational tactic.

But the arrival of Coach Monty Williams and Paul in recent years has brought the Suns back to the playoffs and to the national stage. Phoenix reached the finals in 2021 for the first time since 1993 and last season won a franchise record of 64 games despite ongoing investigations into Sarver. With a talented roster built around Paul, star guard Devin Booker, striker Mikal Bridges and center Deandre Ayton, the Suns enter next season as one of the West’s favorites.

Sarver led a group that bought the Suns for about $ 400 million in 2004, and a recent Forbes estimate set the franchise’s current value at over $ 1.8 billion. The Suns’ selling price valuation could exceed $ 2 billion, as NBA franchises have greatly increased in value in recent years and a new national media rights deal is on the horizon. After the Clippers sold for $ 2 billion in 2014, the Houston Rockets sold for $ 2.2 billion in 2017 and the Brooklyn Nets sold with the Barclays Center arena for $ 3.3 billion in 2019. smaller marketplaces such as Utah Jazz ($ 1.6 billion) and Minnesota Timberwolves ($ 1.5 billion) have produced profitable earnings for their longtime owners.

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