The NBA is better today than it was yesterday. I guess that’s something.
Robert Sarver released a statement, in which he announced that he has begun the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. A lengthy investigation was recently released and it laid out the many ways in which Sarver oversaw a toxic and offensive workplace, much of it due to of his actions and statements.
The result of the investigation was a 1-year suspension and $10 million fine, a punishment much-maligned all across sports media, and by one LeBron James. As were Adam Silver’s comments when he put a spotlight on the elephant in the room by saying there is a difference between being employed by the NBA and owning a franchise. The blowback toward Silver got even worse when an NBA PR representative attempted to walk back those comments.
Whatever has happened since the release of the report and the press conference has led to the correct decision being made. Sarver walking back into the Suns and Mercury offices as their leader in a year was not a tenable situation. For once, Sarver did what was best for everyone, but of course he found a way to be offensive while announcing that NBA fans will soon never have to concern themselves with him again.
This is the opening paragraph to his press release:
Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together — and strengthened the Phoenix area — through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball.
Sarver brought people together alright. He built an organization that eventually brought together 320 people for an investigation that revealed he pulled his dick out in front of employees both literally and figuratively.
It’s bad enough that Sarver actually can’t lose in this situation. Franchise valuations have gone on a space shuttle launch since he purchased the Suns in 2004. The price he paid was then a record $401M. Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers eight years ago for $2 billion when a bigoted slumlord named Donald Strling was finally forced out of the league after he was caught on tape telling his mistress that being around Black people at games, particuatly Magic Johnson, made him look bad to other racists.
Sarver should’ve just copied Michael Jordan’s famous 1995 fax and replaced the word “I’m Back” with “I’m Selling,” especially if this owner wants to take no ownership of his actions and words and yet still be absolved of judgment by the public.
In the statement he expressed that “as a man of faith” he believes in “atonement and forgiveness” and had hoped that the year suspension would give him the opportunity to make amends for what he did.
First of all, what is your faith, Sarver? Do you believe in God, Scientology, the fable of Brownie the Elf, or that people should do whatever you want them to do?
In order to make amends, there has to be an admission of fault. When ESPN was getting ready to release a report about Sarver — a report that would lead to the NBA’s investigation — this is some of what he had to say in a statement before it was published.
“While I can’t begin to know how to respond to some of the vague suggestions made by mostly anonymous voices, I can certainly tell you that some of the claims I find completely repugnant to my nature and to the character of the Suns/Mercury workplace and I can tell you they never, ever happened.”
“I categorically deny any and all suggestions that I used disparaging language related to race or gender. I would like to think that my actions and public record regarding race, gender, or discrimination of any kind, over a lifetime in business and community service, will adequately answer any questions anyone might raise about my commitment to equality and fairness.”
That sounds like there’s nothing to make amends for. Through representation he denied to ESPN every detail in their report, except for the one about him pantsing an employee at an Ice Bucket Challenge event in 2014. Sarver denied most of what he was accused of to NBA investigators, as well. For example that lunch that only female employees were invited to after he yelled at a woman who then began to cry? Sarver said it was to foster networking between employees and the bank, in which he was CEO, and the Suns and Mercury. The NBA investigators did not buy that.
A “unforgiving climate” in 2022 is not why Sarver’s public image is lower than gas lines underneath dirt. He raised all hell, fire, and brimstone to defend himself, and he turned out to be full of hot air. His actions as owner of the Suns and Mercury were abhorrent. For 18 years he did and said whatever he wanted around those employees. He showed little to no regard for human dignity and it can be argued that he took pleasure in making people’s lives miserable.
So yes, it’s great that he’s selling his teams. It’s what needs to happen, but the audacity of Robert Sarver to believe that it’s somehow the public’s fault that this is happening shows that society’s cultural problem is not an unforgiving climate (physically, that’s a whole different story.) It’s the fact that for certain people, delusion can result in a $2 billion profit.