In the wake of the NBA’s investigative findings last week, which confirmed numerous instances of racist, sexist and misogynistic behavior, Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver is finally on the way out.
While the league itself failed to hand out any meaningful punishment, resorting to a one-year suspension, $10 million fine and training course for Sarver, pressure from players, the NBPA, at least one major Suns sponsor, the City of Phoenix and public outcry in general may have finally pushed the 60-year-old owner toward a more permanent resolution.
In a statement released from Sarver on Cision PR Newswire, he announced that he has begun “the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
Robert Sarver has owned the Suns since 2004, when he purchased the team for a then-record $401 million. He also purchased the Mercury at that time.
Last November, ESPN released an incendiary article detailing a pattern of sexist and racist behavior, including using the N-word multiple times — despite being told not to back in 2004 — exposing himself and another male employee in front of other employees, and numerous misogynistic, degrading remarks toward female employees.
“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball,” Sarver wrote in his statement. “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.”
As a 60-year-old millionaire who fought tooth and nail against even the NBA’s most lenient of punishments, Sarver was unlikely to suddenly become a different person after serving his one-year suspension and undergoing a training course. The $10 million fine amounted to about one percent of his net worth, and his statements last year rejecting the veracity of ESPN’s article and even his statement in the wake of the NBA’s punishment indicated a man who didn’t understand the depth of his wrongdoing.
His statement Wednesday morning reeked of the same lack of understanding.
“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” Sarver wrote. “For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
The dominoes started lining up last week when several prominent players — including LeBron James and Suns point guard Chris Paul — spoke out against Sarver’s actions and the league’s punishment. Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi publicly called for Sarver’s resignation, and the Suns’ jersey patch sponsor, PayPal, announced it would not renew its partnership with the team next year if Sarver remained in charge.
That, along with the public outcry, was apparently enough to force the stubborn Sarver to finally yield and sell the teams.
In terms of upcoming buyers, keep an eye on Disney CEO Bob Iger. As Sean Highkin pointed out in The Rose Garden Report, Iger “has expressed interest in buying the Suns in the past and has a business investment relationship with Chris Paul.”
In the meantime, Robert Sarver will await his big payday and continue to paint himself as a victim. According to Sportico, the Suns are currently valued at $1.92 billion.
“I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world,” Sarver continued. “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. This is the best course of action for everyone.
“In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together.”