Another bigot gets exposed in the NBA

Robert SarverPhoenix Suns and Mercury majority owner

Another bigot gets exposed in the NBA
October 03
07:23 2022

Phoenix Suns and Mercury majority owner Robert Sarver recently announced he is planning to sell the two franchises following racist and misogyny allegations. Sarver has owned the Suns for 18 years, but after the allegations, suspension and fine, the writing was on the wall that he would either decide to sell the team or be forced to do so.

Sarver is the third owner in less than a decade who has sold their team following racially insensitive incidents. After players and fans showed their displeasure for the punishment against Sarver, which was a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine, a harsher punishment was being pushed. I guess Sarver wanted to beat them to the punch.

“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness,” Sarver said in a statement. “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.

“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. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”

There was an ESPN report that surfaced which led to the 10-month investigation into rumors that Sarver created a “toxic” work environment within the Suns’ organization. The findings of the investigation revealed that Sarver used the N-word multiple times and made inappropriate comments toward women.

“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 said in the statement about his comments.

I am sorry, but I don’t believe any part of that apology by Sarver, even though the investigation determined that none of Sarver’s behavior was “motivated by racial or gender-based animus.” That just doesn’t make sense to me based on what I read from the investigation and other things that I have read.

There are stories that have been seen from current and former Suns employees that speak contrary to what Sarver wrote in his apology. One story detailed instances of when Sarver said the N-word, such as when he said he hired Lindsey Hunter as head coach in 2013 over Dan Majerle because “these [N-words] need a [N-word].”  That is the type of language you hear from someone that is used to and comfortable with using the N-word on a regular basis.

Sarver also acted inappropriately toward employees. There were “instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees,” which included “sex-related comments,” the league said in a statement. He was also reportedly engaged in “inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees.”  If these reports are true, Sarver seems like a man drunk with power that felt he could do whatever he pleased inside of the two organizations. 

I respect players like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green for coming out and expressing their feelings on how Sarver should have been punished more severely, which I agree with wholeheartedly. What I can’t stand is how certain people like to use situations like this to make it seem like they are fighting for the community, when in reality they have ulterior motives for doing so.  

Rev. Al Sharpton gave his two cents on the matter saying, “For the better part of the last year, I have refused to allow Robert Sarver’s despicable behavior to be swept under the rug. The racist old boys’ club in professional sports is officially closed. A new era is upon us where it is intolerable to view Black players like property. Sarver’s decision today is the first step in the long road toward justice for the Suns and Mercury – the staff, the players, and the fans. It is now imperative that the NBA, both teams, the corporate sponsors, and the new owner, whomever they may be, follow through on the commitment to root out racism, misogyny and hate.”

This type of grandstanding really bothers me. Sharpton is acting like he has been on the ground working for justice since the beginning of the investigation.  While he did call for PayPal to part ways with Sarver last month, he is jumping in on the tail end of the situation to grab some headlines. And honestly, there are a few more important issues that Sharpton could lend his voice to, but I guess those haven’t grabbed enough press for him to become involved yet. Thank goodness for James, Paul and Green who routinely are the first to speak out about injustices in and out of the NBA landscape. They are the ones who need to be applauded.

I couldn’t disagree with Sharpton any more strongly. The “good old boys’ club” is still in existence and is as strong as ever. Just because a few have been outed for their racist and misogynistic behavior, that doesn’t mean the rest of the owners that may feel the same way will change their ways. This just means they will be more careful about what they say when they are out in public.

Until we start to see some Black majority owners in the NBA and the NFL, this good old boys’ club will continue to exist. With both of those leagues being over 70% Black, it’s a wonder that there hasn’t been one Black majority owner. Hopefully there can start to be more representation in ownership that reflects what we see on the field and court. 

This situation with Sarver is reminiscent of the Donald Sterling incident several years ago. Sarver and Sterling just happened to be caught in the act, there is no telling how many other owners and executives use similar language as Sarver. I think if there were more minority owners in the club, we would encounter less of these situations. 

I’ll be interested to see who this new ownership group is.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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