The year-long investigation by the NBA into the conduct of Suns’ majority owner Robert Sarver has brought to light deplorable behavior, poor leadership, and unacceptable actions. When the league had an opportunity to fortify their message of equality, they chose to slap his wrist rather than impose a stiffer penalty.
It’s hard to break up the good ‘ole boys club in the NBA and truly hold people accountable for their actions. NBA insider Brain Windhorst stated on ESPN’s NBA Today on Thursday, “the only way that I think anything would change is if there’s some sort of societal pressure, whether that comes from the players, comes from fans, and comes from sponsors”.
The pressure is beginning to mount. The tide of public opinion is swaying, an with it is the in-fighting amongst the Suns Legacy Ownership group.
On the day in which the Phoenix Suns announced that minority owner Sam Garvin would act as interim governor of the organization during the one year suspension of Robert Sarver, Suns’ Vice Chairman Jahm Najafi has called for the resignation of the Sarver.
As The Music Man’s Professor Harold Hill would say, “Yeah, we’ve got trouble...with a capital ‘T’, that rhymes with ‘P’”, and that stands for Phoenix.
Najafi, who owns the second-largest stake in the organization behind Robert Sarver and has long been an outspoken critic of his, voiced his frustration, disgust, and disappointment in the words and actions of Sarver. Beat writer Duane Rankin released a series of Tweets that contained an open letter to the Phoenix Suns’ employees and players:
Due to the NBA’s investigation and findings, I have no choice but to speak up on behalf of the hundreds of you that have been impacted by your interactions with Robert Sarver and the resulting investigation of his conduct. I first and foremost want to give my deepest thanks to all of you who garnered the courage to share your experiences, as difficult as it may have been, to help piece together a clearer picture of what work life must have been like for you over these past 18 years.
There should be zero tolerance for discriminatory actions of any level, in any setting, let alone a professional one. There is no question that the findings determined that Mr. Sarver’s lewd, misogynist and racist conduct had a substantial negative impact on you and has no place in our society. The report confirmed by multiple eyewitnesses that Robert Sarver used the “N-word” at least 5 times. The report confirmed Sarver engaged in conduct demeaning of female and pregnant employees.
The report confirmed Sarver made crude and sexually inappropriate comments in professional settings. The report confirmed Sarver made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women and made inappropriate workplace physical conduct toward male employees.
WORDS AND ACTIONS MATTER.
Similar conduct by any CEO, executive director, president, teacher, coach or any other position of leadership would warrant immediate termination. The fact that Robert Sarver “owns” the team does not give him a license to treat others differently than any other leader. The fact that anyone would find him fit to lead because of this “ownership” position is forgetting that NBA teams belong to the communities they serve. Team investors are merely temporary stewards. If we, as sports leaders, are not held to the same standards then how can we expect a functional society with integrity and respect on any level? We owe it to you: employees, players, partners and your families to provide the same positive workplace environment we would require of any other business.
I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege. Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver. While I have no interest in becoming the managing partner, I will work tirelessly to ensure the next team steward treats all stakeholders with dignity, professionalism and respect.
There is plenty to digest in Najafi’s statement. What’s noteworthy is that, in contrast to yesterday, when Adam Silver knelt before the owners, one of Phoenix’s minority owners believes in a truer definition of accountability.
Adam Silver discusses the differing standards for NBA governors compared to other league employees when taking questions about Robert Sarver’s fine and suspension pic.twitter.com/SKUXnJ9hia— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 14, 2022
Much more will follow on this story as political, social, and economic repercussions of the Sarver Saga continue to unfold. With Najafi’s statement, the walls of Jericho might come a-tumblin’ down.
Stay tuned to Bright Side of the Sun for more as this unfolds.