PHOENIX — An ESPN report detailing racial and misogynistic allegations against Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver released Thursday morning has prompted an investigation from the NBA.
ESPN REPORTS EXTENSIVELY ON ROBERT SARVER ALLEGATIONS
ESPN has released the following: reportRobert Sarver, Phoenix Suns owner, was charged Thursday with racism and sexism.
The shockwaves that this article has sent through the sports world are unquestionable. The article is shocking right away. ESPN’s storyServer, according to reports, used the N word multiple times while talking with Earl Watson.
The reportESPN spoke to over 70 people working in the company and found a hostile work environment. Sarver is accused of using insensitive racial language. In the article, Sarver also mentioned instances misogyny as well as situations in which employees felt marginalized and ignored.
According to the report, Sarver “denies using racially sensitive language through his legal team.” “Sarver admitted that he used the (N-word), once in his lifetime.”
ESPN reported that a current employee of business operations stated, “If the Commissioner comes in and investigates as to what the f—‘s happening in Phoenix…[he]I would be horrified.”
According to the NBA, they have not received any misconduct complaints from Suns through their confidential hotline.
Jason Rowley, current President/CEO, said that this story was completely absurd and false. said ahead of the report’s release.
In 2004, Sarver bought the team for a record $401 million.
Over the years, many former coaches and players have criticized Sarver’s financial moves and level of involvement in coaching decisions.
In 2018, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Sarver “has earned a long-standing reputation for aggressively involving himself in basketball decisions” and that coaches “became accustomed to regular beratings and demands of strategy and lineup changes.”
Wojnarowski’s 2018 Report did not mention any allegations of racism or sexism.
NBA TO INVESTIGATE ALL SARVER ALLEGATIONS
After the ESPN report was released, the NBA leaders issued a statement announcing that they would investigate the allegations against Robert Sarver.
“We have given Wachtell Lipton law office to conduct a thorough investigation,” the statement reads in part.
The complete statement by the NBA is available below.
“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton law firm to commence a comprehensive investigation. Both the NBA & WNBA have vowed to provide a welcoming and inclusive workplace for all employees. Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”
REACTIONS TO THE ESPN REPORT ON SARVER
Rowley, in a statement released after publication of the article, stated that defamation lawyers had been retained and that the organization was “put in the situation of trying to disprove events that didn’t take place.”
Suns Vice Chairman Jahm Njafi stated in a tweet that the allegations “have shocked and saddened” him.
— Adam Waltz (@Adam_Waltz) November 4, 2021
ESPN claims that they have tried multiple times to reach Sarver in order to conduct an interview.
Sarver issued a statement following the Thursday publication of the report. He stated, “While there are so many things that are inaccurate and misleading in that story that it is difficult to know where I should begin, let’s be clear: The word n-word is not in my vocabulary. I have never used the n-word to refer to any person or group of people, verbally or in writing. I don’t use that word.”
He went on to say he welcomes a full investigation by the NBA, “which may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I’m so very proud.”
HEAD COACH, MONTY WILLIAMS RESPONDS
Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns’ coach, said that the Sarver Report is difficult to digest and that there are many facts not yet clear.
“I find all of these things that are being said, serious in nature and [to say]It is an understatement to say that these allegations are sensitive. But at the same time, they’re just not clear yet,” Williams said. “An article was written, many opinions were shared, but all of it happened before I was here. If any of that stuff happened while I was here, I wouldn’t be in this seat.”
Williams says he wants to wait until the league’s investigation is done and the facts around the severe allegations are learned.
Monty Williams was also asked before Thursday’s game against Houston what his reaction was if any players felt uncomfortable playing given the report.
“If you don’t want to play, that’s fine. All of the leaders I’ve had over the years gave me the same advice. So I’m ok with anything they want to do. They’re free to express themselves. That’s part of our culture.”
Monty says that he has not heard from any players that didn’t want to play as of Thursday afternoon.
Earl Watson, a former Suns head coach and heavily mentioned in the report, made the following statement on Thursday.
“I’m not interested in engaging with an ongoing battle of facts. I instead want to applaud the many executives, players, and staffers who have fought against toxic environments of sexual harassment, racial insensitivity and micro-aggressions through their truth.| want to applaud the courage of the numerous players, executives, and staffers for fighting toxic environments of racial insensitivity, sexual harassment, and micro-aggressions with their truth. My 17 years of basketball and NBA experience have given me the opportunity to speak my truth. But we must not forget those who are forced to keep their mouths shut out for fear of losing jobs. believe that one of the strengths of our league is its ongoing commitment to justice.| believe that one of the strengths of our league is its ongoing commitment to justice. This was a very difficult experience. It has left a lasting impression on me.| am not willing to relive it every day. It is something I will never forget and I will continue to address it when I am ready.| will address it more fulsomely at a point in the future when I feel ready.”
ALLEGED VICTIM TALKS OUT
In the ESPN article, David Bodzin, a former Phoenix Suns account executive, is one of the few people entirely on the record, sharing both his name and story about Sarver’s inappropriate behavior.
Bodzin said he was with Sarver and dozens of other employees in August 2014 while participating in the ALS “ice bucket challenge.”
“I was soaking wet,” Bodzin said. “I went off to the side, and then Sarver came behind me and pulled my pants down.”
Bodzin described the reaction as “shellshocked”, and said that there was a toxic culture in the basketball league.
“The head of [Human Resources] came up to me – kind of tongue in cheek – with a smile on her face and said, ‘Hey, don’t press charges, please, for harassment.’”
Bodzin stated that he didn’t speak out in 2014 because he didn’t want to lose future opportunities in the sports industry. He was also about leaving the Suns for another job.
ESPN reports that Sarver has apologized through his lawyer for the incident and that he didn’t mean to offend Bodzin.
CIVIL RIGHTS COMUNITY REACTS
Members of the Black Owned Business Alliance spoke out Thursday, saying they want to support the Suns and its players but don’t want to endorse the owner if the allegations are true.
“You need to make a change. Go into our community and see how we are living,” said Kristie Winston, President of the Black Owned Business Alliance.
Members believe Sarver should make an impact in underserved areas by using his position of power.
“Use that energy and your money to make a difference, to make a change!” Another member of the alliance stated it.
Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a local civil rights leader, says he will meet with approximately 30 team employees next week, including some current Phoenix Suns players, to discuss the allegations, and to plan for the future. The meeting will not include any current players.
Maupin says he has also asked national civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton to lead in the effort, but it’s unclear if Sharpton plans to get involved at this time.
FANS REACT THURSDAY
Most fans focused their attention on the Suns game on Thursday night and cheered on their Western Conference Champions as they faced the one-win Houston Rockets.
The constant stream of news out of ESPN’s report on Sarver was hard to ignore for some fans ahead of tip-off.
“This isn’t what you want to hear on game night,” said one fan headed into the Footprint Center.
“I think it would benefit (the Suns) if they changed up ownership a little bit,” said fan Damien Hinijos. “There’s no place for that in sports or any other facet in life. Particularly at the level of ownership. They need to be respectful to the guys playing the sport.”
This story was first reported on by Scripps’ Phoenix station KNXV.