The NBA and WNBA issued a joint statement announcing that a “comprehensive investigation” will be launched regarding the conduct of Suns owner Robert Sarver, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets.
“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton law firm to commence a comprehensive investigation,” the statement issued by NBA Communications stated. “The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees. Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”
ESPN published a detailed report regarding Sarver’s conduct on Thursday. It was based on interviews with more than 70 current and former Suns employees, and painted a picture of a toxic workplace culture under Sarver, who is accused of using racially inappropriate language and engaging in inappropriate and misogynistic behavior.
The law firm is the same one that conducted the 2014 investigation regarding former Clippers owner Donald Serling, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets.
The organization issued a statement from Sarver, who indicated he’d welcome an investigation while denying the allegations. Sarver also took shots at former head coach Earl Watson, stating that Watson created a “toxic atmosphere in our organization.”
“I continue to be shocked by the false reporting from (reporter) Baxter Holmes,” Sarver’s statement read. “While there is so much that is inaccurate and misleading in this story that I hardly know where to begin, let me be clear: The n-word is not part of my vocabulary. I have never called anyone or any group of people the n-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by that word, either verbally or in writing.
“… Instead of reporting the truth, Holmes’ story is based on misrepresentations from former Suns coach Earl Watson and other unnamed “sources.” Mr. Watson created an unprofessional and toxic atmosphere in our organization. He is clearly not a credible source. Despite hearing from witness after witness that disputed Mr. Watson’s stories, Mr. Holmes completely disregarded the truth here. Now we are in the position of trying to disprove things that did not happen.”
The team’s president and CEO, Jason Rowley, also issued a statement which in part questioned Holmes’ integrity.
“The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury organization vehemently reject the claims made in today’s ESPN article,” it read. “Our two organizations have always worked hard to create an environment that is respectful and diverse; where racism, sexism and damaging behavior of any kind are not condoned. Today’s story contains false information and narratives perpetuated by a reporter who has struggled unsuccessfully to match the facts to a story he decided he wanted to tell a year ago. He twisted statements and circumstances to fit his preconceived narrative. He broke every rule of journalism by first deciding on his findings and then cherry-picking events and unreliable sources to prop up his demonstrably false claims.”
However, the team’s part owner and vice chairman, Jahm Najafi, struck a different tone in a statement of his own, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets.
“The conduct he is alleged to have committed has stunned and saddened me and is unacceptable,” Najafi said.