LeBron James and Chris Paul have slammed the NBA for the punishment meted out to Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, who was fined $10 million this week and suspended for a year after an independent investigation found that he had engaged in hostile, racially insensitive and inappropriate behavior.
The report, commissioned by the NBA last fall after an ESPN report on Sarver’s behavior, found that the Suns owner had “on at least five occasions during his tenure with the Suns/Mercury organization, repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others.”
He also “engaged in instances of unfair conduct towards female employees, made numerous gender-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 towards male employees. ”
“Read Sarver’s stories many times now,” James wrote on Twitter. “I have to be honest… Our league definitely got it wrong. I don’t need to explain why. You read all the stories and decide for yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place in this league for that kind of behavior.
“I love this league and deeply respect our leadership. But that’s not fair. There is no place for misogyny, sexism and racism in any workplace. It doesn’t matter if you own the team or whether you play for the team. We hold our league as an example of our values and that’s not it.
According to the NBA, 320 current and former employees who worked for Sarver were interviewed. The NBA said Sarver and the Suns and Mercury organizations cooperated with the investigation.
In an open letter to Suns employees and players on Thursday, team vice president Jahm Najafi called on Sarver to step down.
“I cannot, with good judgment, sit back and let our children and future generations of fans think that this behavior is condoned because of wealth and privilege,” Najafi said. “Therefore, in keeping with my commitment to help eradicate all forms of racism, sexism and prejudice, as Vice President of the Phoenix Suns, I call for the resignation of Robert Sarver.”
Sarver, who has been majority owner of the Suns and Mercury since 2004, cannot have any involvement with the team during the one-year suspension and must complete an on-the-job training program. The $10 million fine is the maximum allowed as determined by NBA rules.
Paul, a 12-time All-Star who has played for the Suns since 2020, also said the NBA’s punishment should have been harsher.
“Like many others, I have reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read,” Paul wrote on Twitter. “This behavior, especially towards women, is unacceptable and must never be repeated.
“I am of the view that the sanctions have failed to address what we can all agree is atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected. »
In 2014, Donald Sterling, then owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was banned for life by the NBA and was forced to sell the franchise after he was recorded making racist remarks.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who hadn’t assumed his role for a long time before Sterling’s allegations came to light, explained why Sarver was not banned for life for his comments.
“This case is very different and it’s not that one was taped and the other was not,” Silver said, according to NBA.com. “Indefensible isn’t strong enough – it’s beyond pale in every possible way – but it was a whole different context than what we saw in that previous case.
“Looking back on his hiring history, his history of supporting particular employees, what people said about him – even though there were terrible things – there were also many, many people who had very positive things to say about him through this process. I took all of that into account.
“There are special rights here, someone who owns an NBA team as opposed to someone who is an employee. The equivalent of a $10 million fine and a one-year suspension, I don’t I don’t know how to measure that against a job. I don’t have the right to take away his team… but for me, the consequences are serious.
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