In the day since it was announced, the NBA’s punishment of Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, has been widely criticized by sports journalists and analysts. Now, the NBA’s biggest stars are weighing in on how the situation was handled.
Four-time NBA champion LeBron James made his feelings known on Twitter, writing, “Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself. I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any workplace. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.”
Suns guard Chris Paul, who has also been president of the National Basketball Players Association, agreed with his close friend LeBron, tweeting, “Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated. I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected.”
After an ESPN report accused him of racist and misogynistic behavior in the workplace, an independent investigation found that on multiple occasions he used the N-word “when recounting the statements of others.” There were also “instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees,” including remarks on the appearance of female employees and “sex-related comments.”
On ESPN’s NBA Today, NBA reporter Zach Lowe described how Sarver told a pregnant woman that she would be taken off an event because her “child needed a mother.” The owner also made comments about sex acts, the looks of Suns dancers, the sex life of a player’s significant other and dropped his pants and underwear during an examination with a physical trainer.
But the report states none of this was done with “racial or gender-based animus.” Apparently, this grown-ass man with power over people’s lives and careers just has a “sophomoric” sense of humor.
In response to the investigation’s findings, the NBA suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10 million. He cannot be involved in any basketball operations for the NBA or WNBA, and can’t attend their facilities.
A year!? Really!? He takes some time away from the team, pretends to work on his issues and just gets to come back next season like nothing happened? If this is how he treats his employees, Robert Sarver shouldn’t be the late-night manager of a 7-Eleven, let alone oversee two successful sports teams. Especially considering one is mostly Black and the other is all women. He is clearly not fit to be an owner.
So now, just like with Donald Sterling, the players are the ones who have to get shit done and get this guy the hell out of the league, because the rules the rest of us follow, don’t apply to billionaires.