Suns’ Robert Sarver Fined $10MM, Suspended One Year

The NBA has concluded its investigation into the alleged workplace misconduct of Suns owner Robert Sarver and has announced in a press release that Sarver has been suspended for one year and fined $10MM for engaging in behavior that “clearly violated common workplace standards.”

According to the NBA, the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz – which led the independent investigation – interviewed 320 individuals, including current and former Suns employees, and examined more than 80,000 documents.

The firm found that Sarver had used racially insensitive language in the workplace, including using the N-word when recounting other people’s statements on at least five occasions.

The investigation also confirmed that the Suns’ owner engaged in inequitable treatment of female employees, made “many” sex-related comments in the workplace – including inappropriate comments about female employees’ physical appearances – and treated team employees in a “demeaning and harsh” manner.

The investigation into Sarver’s behavior began last November following the publication of an ESPN report, which contended that the Suns owner used racially inappropriate language and engaged in inappropriate and misogynistic behavior, creating a toxic workplace. The full report from Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz directly addresses many of the specific allegations made in that ESPN article.

The $10MM fine that Sarver faces is the maximum allowed by the NBA’s constitution and by-laws. That money will be donated to organizations committed to addressing race- and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace, according to the league.

During his one-year suspension – which also applies to his involvement with his WNBA franchise, the Phoenix Mercury – Sarver won’t be permitted to attend any NBA or WNBA games. He also can’t be present at team facilities or be involved in any way with his franchises’ business or basketball operations. Additionally, he’ll be required to completed a training program related to appropriate workplace conduct.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Sarver’s ban from the Suns’ business and basketball operations comes at a time when the team is facing some key contract decisions and has crossed the luxury tax line for the first time in over a decade.

While it’s a severe punishment for Sarver, there’s no indication that he’ll be required to sell the franchise, as former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was in 2014 when recordings surfaced of him making racist comments. Within today’s press release, the NBA stated that investigators “made no finding that Sarver’s workplace misconduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus.”

Although the NBA said Sarver “cooperated fully” with the investigation, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes (Twitter link) that he was “unaccepting” of the idea that he deserved to be suspended for one year and fined $10MM. “The punitive part of the process became largely acrimonious,” Woj writes.

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