Many eyes and ears have been focused on the NBA's decision to suspend Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver for one season year and fine him $10 million for his detrimental conduct that included racial and misogynistic statements to his employees.
We’ve heard from LeBron James, who feels that the NBA, “got this one wrong”. We have heard from former NBA Players Association president Chris Paul on the issue as he stated that via Twitter that, “the sanctions fell short and truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior”.
Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated.— Chris Paul (@CP3) September 15, 2022
We’ve heard from Suns’ minority owner Jahm Najafi, who stated in an open letter to Phoenix employees and players, “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.”
Phoenix Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi, who owns the second-largest stake in the team behind majority owner Robert Sarver, just released a statement.— Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) September 16, 2022
In it, Najafi writes, in part:
"I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver."
This topic goes beyond sport.
This black eye for the Suns’ organization is getting the attention of more than just the casual fan. You are hearing what people think about this in your daily conversations, conversing with coworkers who know nothing about the NBA but everything about workplace culture. I’ve personally had the “watercooler” conversation with people on the topic.
However you look at it, it’s not good. From the actions taken that resulted in the investigation to the year-long process to determine the factual occurrences, from the final decision made by the offices of the NBA to the lack of accountability in Sarver’s statement on the issue. Not. Good.
There is a plethora of different angles and lenses through which you can digest this story. One of those is through the eyes of the City of Phoenix.
In 2019 the Suns unveiled renderings and provided details surrounding the teams $230 million renovation project of then-named Talking Stick Resort Arena. It was reported that the City of Phoenix would contribute $150 million towards the renovations, while the team would add $80 million and also build a brand new practice facility which cost roughly $50 million. That’s 65% of the bill charged to the Valley of the Sun.
“We are very proud of this 30-year partnership that we’ve had with the city of Phoenix and we believe it has set a standard for private-public partnerships,” Phoenix Suns President and CEO Jason Rowley said at the time. “We’re the only team [that] has Phoenix on our chest and when 1.5 billion [people] across the world are watching NBA basketball, we’re demonstrating our civic pride for this city.”
This season, because of Robert Sarver’s conduct, people may be thinking something else when they see Phoenix across the chest.
On Thursday, the City of Phoenix released a statement relative to the Robert Sarver situation via their Twitter account.
Statement from Mayor Gallego and members of the Phoenix City Council: pic.twitter.com/zV5GaJpQWv— Mayor Kate Gallego (@MayorGallego) September 15, 2022
This is a strong statement from Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego as well as council members Deborah Stark, Betty Guardado, Yasmin Ansari, and Carlos Garcia. Diversity and inclusiveness are supported at the municipal level, which is in stark contrast to the acts of the suspended majority owner.
The city has invested in this group and, thankfully, has shown intolerance for Sarver’s behavior. In the statement, phrases like “appalled,” “very unhappy,” and “lack of organizational protections” were used to convey this dissatisfaction on the part of the city.
This is another brick in the wall that is tumbling around Robert Sarver and the NBA’s decision to fine and suspend rather than taking more extraordinary action for his conduct.