Robert Sarver: Suspended Phoenix Suns owner wants to sell NBA club

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver
The Suns reached the 2021 NBA Finals for the first time in 28 years but lost out to the Milwaukee Bucks

The Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has announced his intention to sell the NBA club.

Sarver was fined $10m and suspended from the sport for a year following an NBA investigation into his racist and sexist behaviour in the workplace.

NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul were among those who called for the Suns owner to face a stronger penalty.

“This is the best course of action for everyone,” said Sarver in a statement, announcing he was looking for a buyer.

Sarver, who also owns WNBA’s the Phoenix Mercury, had faced mounting pressure from within the club and the NBA following his suspension last week.

NBA players union chief Tamika Tremaglio called for him to be banned for life and Suns vice-chairman Jahm Najafi urged him to resign, while major sponsor PayPal said it would not renew its deal with the team if Sarver remained involved.

“I do not want to be a distraction,” said Sarver. “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.

“In our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past.”

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”.

“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together,” added Sarver.

“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 the Los Angeles Lakers forward James was one of the many voices within basketball who felt Sarver should not be allowed a way back into the sport.

He wrote on Twitter: “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. Our league definitely got this wrong.”

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.

However, if the Suns owner does now find a buyer he could stand to make a huge profit. Sarver bought the club in 2004 for $401m (£354.7m). The team was valued at $1.8bn (£1.6bn) at the beginning of last season, according to Forbes.

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