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Robert Sarver is Selling the Suns & Mercury. How Did We Get Here?

A definitive timeline of the key events that led to the disgraced governor and majority partner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury pursuing a sale of both teams

In a statement released on Wednesday, Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury governor and majority partner Robert Sarver announced that he’s beginning the process to sell both teams after the NBA released troublesome findings from an independent investigation into workplace misconduct and harassment within both organizations.

The report showed that Sarver displayed instances of abusive behavior and harassment against both women and men that were frequently of a sexual nature, along with repeated racist remarks.

Sarver, who was initially suspended from the NBA and WNBA for a year and fined $10 million, felt he deserved to be forgiven despite his unbecoming words and actions.

As Sarver said in his Wednesday statement:

“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.

“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

“I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.”

View the full statement here.

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We don’t yet know how long this sale process will take — we are talking about two franchises in two different leagues, after all — but there shouldn’t be a shortage of interest from potential buyers. In fact, we ought to expect an absolute feeding frenzy that produces the single highest sale price in basketball history.

The Suns made the NBA Finals in 2021 and have an estimated valuation of $1.8 billion according to Forbes. The Mercury struggled this past season but likewise made the Finals in 2021, and the WNBA’s popularity soared to new heights this year, particularly when gauging attendance, viewership, and parternships.

So, how did this all start and how did we arrive at the events of today?

It all came to the surface following a report from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes published on Nov. 4, 2021. The NBA quickly involved, but the penalties they levied following the independent investigation they commissioned clearly weren’t enough. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what happened since Robert Sarver was officially suspended and fined on Sept. 13.

Sept. 14: LeBron James Demands More

When LeBron James speaks, people listen. The longtime face of the NBA was disgusted and stated how there’s no place for someone like Sarver in the league — or anywhere else, for that matter.

Sept. 14: Chris Paul Sounds Off

Chris Paul was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers during the Donald Sterling debacle. He’s currently the starting point guard for the Suns. He was also formerly the Former President of the NBPA Executive Committee. He’s been down this road before, and there’s perhaps no more qualified voice inside the NBA to evaluate the Sarver situation.

Sept. 15: Minority Owner Calls for Resignation

One day after James and Paul drew a line in the sand, Suns Vice Chairman and second-largest stakeholder Jahm Najafi called for Sarver’s resignation in an open letter to team employees.

In the letter, Najafi said there should be “zero tolerance” for misogynistic and racist conduct in any workplace:

“I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans to think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege. Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver.”

Sept. 16: PayPal Threatens to Ditch Partnership

PayPal, which serves as the jersey sponsor for the Suns dating back to an agreement in 2018, publicly threatened to cut its ties with the organization after the 2022-23 season if Sarver was to remain the team’s governor when he returned from his suspension.

As company CEO Dan Schulman said in a statement:

“PayPal’s sponsorship with the Suns is set to expire at the end of the current season. In light of the findings of the NBA’s investigation, we will not renew our sponsorship should Robert Sarver remain involved with the Suns organization, after serving his suspension.”

Money talks.

Sept. 21: Sarver Announces Intentions to Sell

That brings us to today.

Despite his lewd, sexist, and racist actions and words, Robert Sarver — who first bought the Suns for $401 million in 2004 and has an estimated net worth of $800 million to $850 million — will soon walk away far richer than he was before, disgraced as he may be.

NBA training camps begin on Sept. 27. In the meantime, let the amends-making begin.

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