The Arizona Republic

Sarver still suspended for year despite selling Suns

- Duane Rankin

Robert Sarver remains under his yearlong suspension by the NBA despite no longer being the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, sources tell The Republic.

Sarver will serve the entire suspension from any activities involving the Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, sources tell The Republic, that was part of his punishment along with a $10-million fine for “workplace misconduct and organizati­onal deficienci­es” found in the 10-month NBA investigat­ion.

The suspension began Sept. 13, 2022, when the NBA announced the results of the investigat­ion. The league detailed what Sarver wasn’t allowed to do during the one-year suspension.

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).

Sarver’s office has since been cleared out at the team’s practice facility.

Sarver. 61, also was required to complete a training program “focused on respect and appropriat­e conduct in the workplace” during his suspension.

The $10 million fine was the maximum the league could find Sarver “permitted” by the NBA Constituti­on & By-Laws. The league looked to donate funds to organizati­ons “committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace.”

Sarver announced his intentions to sell the team Sept. 21 amid the backlash of the results of the investigat­ion that showed he used the N-word multiple times and made inappropri­ate comments toward women.

Billionair­e mortgage lender Mat Ishbia agreed in principle last December to purchase the Suns and Mercury for a record $4 billion. Ishbia, 43, received final transactio­n approval Feb. 6.

Sarver initially bought the Suns from Jerry Colangelo in 2004 for $401 million.

Sarver, along with his wife Penny, recently gave $20,000 bonus to Suns and Mercury employees who have been with the two franchises for more than a year and donated $5 million to Phoenix Suns Charities, according to an email Ishbia sent out to employees Feb. 16 obtained by The Republic.

The NBA launched an investigat­ion in response to ESPN report Nov. 4, 2021 of allegation­s of racism and misogyny

against Sarver, claiming he created a “toxic” work environmen­t within the Suns organizati­on during his run as owner.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm out of New York headed the Sarver investigat­ion.

Sarver denied the allegation­s from the start and welcomed an investigat­ion. A total of 320 individual­s, including current and former employees who worked for the teams during Sarver’s 18year tenure, and “other relevant individual­s” were interviewe­d as part of the investigat­ion.

In addition, more than 80,000 documents and other materials, including emails, text messages and videos were reviewed.

The NBA statement said the firm’s investigat­ion concluded Sarver “engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and league rules and policies. This conduct included the use of racially insensitiv­e language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constitute­d bullying.”

Among the key findings in the independen­t investigat­ion:

Sarver, on at least five occasions during his tenure with the Suns/Mercury organizati­on, repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others.

Sarver engaged in instances of inequitabl­e conduct toward female employees, made many sex-related comments in the workplace, made inappropri­ate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women, and on several occasions engaged in inappropri­ate physical conduct toward male employees.

Sarver engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees, including by yelling and cursing at them.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRanki­n.

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 ?? ANTRANIK TAVITIAN/THE REPUBLIC ?? Robert Sarver, former Suns owner, watches the AZ Drive pickleball team play the Atlanta Bouncers in Mesa on Jan. 26.
ANTRANIK TAVITIAN/THE REPUBLIC Robert Sarver, former Suns owner, watches the AZ Drive pickleball team play the Atlanta Bouncers in Mesa on Jan. 26.

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