Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones and coach Monty Williams each offered their perspective on owner Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the team at the organization’s Media Day on Monday morning.
Jones said he was in agreement with Sarver’s choice and that “it brings some closure to a long period of discomfort and uneasiness.”
“It also gives us a pivot point to continue to focus on raising the standards of our organization and leading by example,” Jones said. “I think when you look at the findings and just processing them, you realize that we just did not hold up to a standard of excellence.
“Those behaviors, not just in a sport, but in society in general, those are behaviors that are unacceptable. And we got to hold ourself to a higher standard and we got to protect those that can’t protect themselves. So our focus this year is to continue on the progress we’ve made as an organization to continue to live out our winning behaviors (of) respect, resiliency and support. And I’m just grateful that our players and everyone involved can feel good about the outcome.”
Williams said there was “a bit of shock” about the findings and he was in disbelief. He said he and Jones have had conversations about positively affecting the organization for the future.
“You start to think about how these things impacted people,” Williams said. “How is it going to impact our team, the organization, the community? And James and myself and (Suns assistant general manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations) Morgan (Cato) have had a ton of conversations about, ‘How do we handle this and deal with this in a way that’s productive but also sympathetic towards those who have been affected by all of this?’ So a number of emotions, but at the same time, you think about all the things. I have a white wife, my stepson is white and I have five Black children. Just thinking about them in a world where these kinds of things still happen and that bothered me. So I’m no different than you all. There was a range of emotions and states of mind that I dealt with.”
Sarver, who bought the Suns in 2004, was found have used the “N-word when recounting the statements of others,” according to ESPN’s story from Baxter Holmes.
Jones and Williams spoke about their reaction to Sarver’s use of the word.
“The ‘N’ word is a touchy subject for so many people, but not for me,” Jones said. “I just don’t believe that word is acceptable across the board. It’s not something that I’ve really — I mean, I just can’t accept that. The word was never directed towards me, but if it’s directed toward anyone, it’s wrong.”
Added Williams: “In reference to that word, I don’t like it, I never have. Especially when I was younger and I learned what the word meant. I learned how demeaning it was towards humanity, not just Black folks. And when I saw the report, I was not happy about it. Quite frankly, disgusted. It is not a word you repeat any time.”
Williams, one of the Suns’ leaders, said he had conversations with Suns players and wanted to be a “sounding board” for the situation.
“Those things will remain private but for me, it’s validating their emotions and feelings,” Williams said. “Always letting them know that whatever they felt was cool.
“That was my way of allowing them to get it off their chest or at least talk about it. And then those organic conversations hopefully lead to something productive. That’s what we got to do, we got to be leaders and transition and be productive moving forward.”
Here are how Suns players reacted to the Sarver findings.
Chris Paul: “It was unfortunate. That stuff going on in a workplace is really unfortunate. Just like everybody, I’m sure, thoughts and prayers to all those involved and you try to control what you can control. I can’t speak for all the players and everything like that, but it was tough to read and it was disturbing.”
Devin Booker: “It was tough. It was tough for me because it’s not the Robert Sarver that I know. It’s not the Robert Sarver that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms. But at the same time, I’m not insensitive to everybody that’s involved in this situation. And I understand everybody’s personal experience with other people are always going to be different. But it’s tough to read because that’s not the person I know.”
Deandre Ayton: “I would say, I was disappointed. That was very unacceptable. That’s about it. My thoughts are with the people that are affected by it.”
Author’s note: Bright Side of the Sun will continue to update this story with quotes from Jones, Williams and Suns players. For accuracy purposes and sensitivity toward the situation, we may hold off adding quotes to this story if they are not heard with 100 percent clarity