What did Suns and Mercury governor Robert Sarver do to get suspended and fined by the NBA? What can’t he do while suspended, and what must he do in order to come back? Read on.
On Tuesday, the NBA released findings from an independent investigation into workplace misconduct within the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury organizations centered on Robert Sarver, the governor of both franchises. The inquiry emerged following a report from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes published on Nov. 4, 2021, detailing repeated instances of abusive behavior and harassment against both women and men that were frequently of a sexual nature.
The big takeaway? The NBA suspended Sarver and fined him the largest dollar amount that league rules allow — but the finer points of the ban go much deeper than simply a timeframe and a price tag.
Boardroom has the full list of details you need to know about the Robert Sarver suspension below.
What are the terms of Robert Sarver’s suspension?
- He is suspended for one year as of Sept. 13, 2022.
- He must pay a fine of $10 million, the highest penalty allowed under league rules. The league pledged to donate the full sum “to organizations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace.”
Additionally — taken verbatim from the NBA’s official announcement of the investigation’s findings — Robert Sarver may not:
- “Be present at any NBA or WNBA team facility, including any office, arena, or practice facility.”
- “Attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, including games, practices, or business partner activity.”
- “Represent the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity.”
- “Have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury.”
- “Have any involvement in the business, governance, or activities of either the NBA or WNBA, including attending or participating in meetings of either league’s Board (and their associated Board committees).”
What did Robert Sarver say?
In addition to widespread “yelling and cursing” at employees as part of a pattern of “demeaning and harsh treatment,” several witnesses reported hearing him use the n-word on a number of different occasions — “at least five,” according to the NBA’s finding, “when recounting the statements of others.”
Regarding his treatment of women, Sarver was determined to have made “many sex-related comments in the workplace” and “made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women.”
What did Robert Sarver do?
The league’s investigation determined that the Suns governor “engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees” in multiple instances. Patterns emerged suggesting that this conduct was frequently geared toward humiliation.
…And just for kicks, here’s how he responded to the original ESPN report from November 2021 that led to the investigation:
Curiously, the NBA noted in its report that “The investigation made no finding that Mr. Sarver’s workplace misconduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus.”
How were this suspension and penalty determined?
In the wake of the publication of Baxter Holmes’ ESPN report, the league commissioned an independent investigation by New York law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. Attorneys Sarah Eddy and David Anders led the inquiry. After evaluating the firm’s final report, the NBA levied punishment as it saw fit under its Constitution and By-Laws.
How did the Suns and Mercury respond to the news?
Read their full joint statement below:
What else does Sarver have to do in order to be reinstated following his suspension?
In addition to the suspension and the fine, the NBA ruled that he must complete a training program related to workplace conduct.
What are the Suns and Mercury organizations required to do?
As stated verbatim in the league’s report, the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury must fulfill a series of obligations including but not strictly limited to:
- “Retaining an outside firm to evaluate and make recommendations with respect to workplace training programs, policies, and procedures, and hiring and compensation practices — with a focus on fostering a diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace.”
- “Conducting regular and anonymous workplace culture surveys and responding to survey results with specific action plans.”
- ” Immediately reporting to the league any instances or allegations of significant misconduct by any employee.”
- “For a period of three years, providing the league with regular reports related to steps taken by the organization to address these requirements.”
- ” Following league direction for remediation/improvement of workplace issues if/as they arise.”
Wait, why wasn’t Sarver simply forced to sell the team(s) like Donald Sterling was?
Honestly? If there was video or audio evidence of the exact same stuff already noted in the report, he probably would be.