NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul say Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver should have been given a stronger punishment for his racist and sexist behaviour.
Sarver, who also owned the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was fined $10m and suspended from the sport for a year after the NBA investigated allegations.
“There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any workplace. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this ain’t it,” wrote James on Twitter.
The NBA interviewed 320 people and scrutinised 80,000 documents and videos after an ESPN article in November 2021 which alleged Sarver’s 18 years in charge of the team had been characterised by racist and sexist behaviour and bullying.
While the NBA investigation made “no finding that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus”, it did find evidence of “racially insensitive language, unequal treatment of female employees and sex-related statements and conduct”.
“Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself,” added James, the Los Angeles Lakers forward.
“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right.”
Twelve-time All-Star Paul, who has played for the Suns since 2020, added his condemnation on social media.
“Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read,” he wrote.
“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 behaviour. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected.”
Sarver’s punishment was less severe than that of Donald Sterling, who was banned from the NBA for life and forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 after he was recorded making racist remarks.
The head of the players’ union called for a similar ban for Sarver.
“I have made my position known to (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again,” said National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio.
Silver said that Sarver’s behaviour, while unacceptable, did not meet the threshold for a life ban.
“First of all, we’re looking at the totality of circumstances over an 18-year period in which he’s owned these teams,” said Silver.
“And ultimately, we made a judgment, I made a judgment, that in the circumstances in which he had used that language and that behaviour while, as I said it was indefensible, it’s not strong enough (to merit a lifetime ban).
“It’s beyond the pale in every possible way to use language and behave that way, but that it was wholly of a different kind than what we saw in that earlier case.”