Baltimore Sun

Suns owner gets 1-year ban, $10M fine


The NBA has suspended Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver for one year, plus fined him $10 million, after an investigat­ion found that he had engaged in what the league called “workplace misconduct and organizati­onal deficienci­es.”

The findings of the league’s report, published Tuesday, came nearly a year after the NBA asked a law firm to investigat­e allegation­s that Sarver had a history of racist, misogynist­ic and hostile incidents over his nearly two-decade tenure overseeing the franchise.

Sarver said he will “accept the consequenc­es of the league’s decision” and apologized for “words and actions that offended our employees,” though noted he disagreed with some of the report’s findings.

The report said Sarver “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns,” though added that the investigat­ion “makes no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitiv­e language with the intent to demean or denigrate.”

The study also concluded that Sarver used demeaning language toward female employees, including telling a pregnant employee that she wouldn’t be able to do her job after becoming a mother; made off-color comments and jokes about sex and anatomy; and yelled and cursed at employees in ways that would be considered bullying “under workplace standards.”

The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed by NBA rule.

“I take full responsibi­lity for what I have done,” Sarver said. “I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values . ... This moment is an opportunit­y for me to demonstrat­e a capacity to learn and grow as we continue to build a working culture where every employee feels comfortabl­e and valued.”

Sarver, the league said, cannot 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; or have any involvemen­t with the business or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury.

The league said it would donate the $10 million “to organizati­ons that are committed to addressing race and genderbase­d issues in and outside the workplace.”

It’s the second-largest penalty — in terms of total sanctions — ever levied by the NBA against a team owner, behind Donald Sterling being banned for life in 2014. Sterling was fined $2.5 million, the largest allowable figure at that time, and was forced to sell the Clippers as part of the massive fallout that followed him making racist comments.

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