During an all-employee phone call on Wednesday afternoon, held hours after majority owner Robert Sarver announced he would be selling the Phoenix Suns, team president and CEO Jason Rowley asked team staff questions about the future. of the organization; whether punishment would be imminent for franchise-specific leaders who were found guilty in a years-long pattern of workplace misconduct; and whether the team would acknowledge specific allegations after siding with Sarver publicly when those allegations first surfaced, team sources told ESPN.
Rowley noted that Sam Garvin, a minority owner who was originally part of the property group that Sarver took to buy the team in 2004, would remain the team’s interim governor early in the sales process, giving him control over. all managerial decisions for the organization. those sources said. Rowley also said that Sarver, under the terms of the NBA’s recent one-year suspension, would have no interaction or connection with anyone in the organization and would not attend games, visit the team facility or his workplace.
Sarver was suspended for a year and fined $ 10 million last week after an NBA investigation found he used the N word at least five times “when recounting the statements of others.”
Sarver has also been involved in “cases of unfair conduct towards female employees”, including “sex-related comments” and inappropriate comments on employee appearance, the NBA said in its statement.
Rowley told staff that it was important for the organization to “acknowledge some missteps” it has had in the past and apologized to any current or previous staff members who had “an unpleasant experience” there.
“Leadership starts from the top,” he added, in part.
Sarver’s impending absence provided the team with “clarity” and that questions about Sarver’s role in the future – “the elephant in the room” – were behind the team, Rowley said.
But Rowley also answered the staff’s timely questions that were previously sent through the team’s human resources department. The first question centered on whether there would be a punishment for the leaders of the organization that some staff members deemed guilty of contributing to years of workplace misconduct.
Rowley, who has been part of the Suns organization from 2007-2008, said there were elements – without naming details – in the NBA investigation report that the team would review and take “corrective action” where appropriate.
Rowley asked about the steps the organization was taking to ensure it had more women, people of color, and women of color in specific leadership positions. Rowley cited the organization’s recent efforts and said he had hired a “diversity, equity and inclusion leader” who he would help further.
Rowley also asked a question, which is said to have been filed by several staff members, as to why the organization did not specifically address the allegations after being swiftly alongside Sarver when the allegations were first noticed.
Rowley referred to the team’s forthcoming statement, which was shared with staff before being released to the public. He also referred to the fact that he, an executive team member, was addressing them on Wednesday that past incidents had occurred that “were not consistent with our values” and that the team needed to take action to correct.
The NBA commissioned its investigation in the wake of an ESPN story in November 2021 that detailed allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.
In that story, several current and former employees told ESPN about the conduct of other Suns management team members who felt they helped create a toxic and sometimes hostile work environment. While no one claimed that Sarver was involved in those incidents, many felt that Sarver’s own conduct contributed to a culture that influenced how some other managers within the organization treated their employees.
On Wednesday, several current and former staff members called for the responsibility of some leaders.
A staff member who participated in the investigation said, “I am relieved, I am exceedingly happy, I have the power and I am motivated to continue to ensure that all the men in that organization still in power who supported this culture are uprooted.”