The league announced the suspension, citing the findings of an independent investigation, which found that Sarver “violated team and League rules and policies, which reflect common workplace standards.
The statement read, “This behavior included using racially insensitive language, treating female employees differently than male employees, making sexist comments and engaging in sexist behavior, and treating employees so harshly that it sometimes constituted bullying.”
In November of 2021, after ESPN published an article citing more than 70 Suns employees who alleged Sarver had created a “toxic” work environment in his 17 years as owner of the club, the NBA commissioned the independent investigation of Sarver, who also owns the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA.
Sarver refuted the claims and said he welcomed the investigation by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz at the time.
“Good leadership involves accountability,” Sarver said in a statement released by the Suns on Tuesday.
“It all begins with me in the Suns and Mercury groups.
“While I disagree with some of the specifics of the NBA’s report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees. I take full responsibility for what I have done, and I am sorry for causing this pain. These errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values.”
The NBA claims that 320 people, including current and former Suns employees and Sarver himself, were interviewed during the course of the investigation.
The league claims that Sarver and the clubs cooperated fully throughout the investigation by reviewing over 80,000 documents and other materials, including emails, text messages, and videos.
At least five times during his tenure, Sarver “repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others,” according to the investigation.
He “engaged in instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees,” as well as “made sex-related comments in the workplace,” “made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women,” and “engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees” on multiple occasions.
The league said the investigation also confirmed “instances of workplace misconduct by other Suns employees that were not directly related to Mr. Sarver and a lack of proper organizational policies and controls.”
The league took note of the fact that most of the employees who had been accused of misconduct had since left their positions with the Suns, and that the club had hired a new head of Human Resources in July 2021, who had since implemented new policies to enhance the positive culture of the workplace and provide employees with an efficient channel through which to report any instances of misconduct.
As a result of his suspension, Sarver is not allowed to visit the offices, arenas, or practice courts of any NBA or WNBA teams.
He is barred from being involved in the basketball activities or club governance of the NBA or WNBA in any way, including not attending games or practices or taking part in business partner activities.
To add insult to injury, the league has mandated that Sarver attend a course “centered on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace.”
To “organizations that are committed to resolving race and gender-based challenges in and outside of the workplace,” the NBA will donate the maximum fine of $10 million allowed by the league’s constitution and bylaws.