Professional sports has been rocked with racist allegations recently, mainly stemming from within NFL teams. However, the NBA is receiving its reckoning.
On Friday, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver vehemently denied allegations of “racism, sexism and sexual harassment.” The allegations reportedly are planned for an upcoming ESPN story.
Set It Off
🚨 Breaking: The NBA is preparing for a massive story accusing #Suns owner Robert Sarver of racism, sexism and sexual harassment in a series of incidents, sources say. With enough evidence to support such claims, there’s a real chance the league would forcibly remove Sarver.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) October 22, 2021
“The NBA is preparing for a massive story accusing Suns owner Robert Sarver of racism, sexism and sexual harassment in a series of incidents, sources say. With enough evidence to support such claims, there’s a real chance the league would forcibly remove Sarver,” tweeted Jordan Schultz host of the “Pull Up” podcast with Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum.
Sarver released a statement saying he’s “wholly shocked” by the accusations and vehemently denies them.
How Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton doing Robert Sarver pic.twitter.com/zqap3hqfLA
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) October 22, 2021
“I am wholly shocked by some of the allegations purported by ESPN about me, personally, or about the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations,” Sarver said in the statement.
“While I can’t begin to know how to respond to some of the vague suggestions made by mostly anonymous voices, I can certainly tell you that some of the claims I find completely repugnant to my nature and to the character of the Suns/Mercury workplace and I can tell you they never, ever happened.”
Suns release a statement saying they are aware of a proposed story accusing governor Robert Sarver of racism and sexism pic.twitter.com/WAcGTqHLNW
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 22, 2021
“First and foremost, I reject any insinuation of personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination. I despise language that disrespects any individuals, regardless of race, gender, preference, or choice.
“Such language has no place in business or at home in what I consider Suns and Mercury families. I am proud of our record of diversity and inclusion on both teams – whether on the court or in the front office.”
Getting Ahead Of The Mess
Sarver also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, who went to the WNBA Finals this season.
“I don’t begin to know how to prove that something DIDN’T happen, and it is difficult to erase or forget ugly accusations once they are made. Even hints of racism or sexism in our culture today are toxic and damaging and should not be lightly raised.
Team owner Robert Sarver’s statement in response to what the Suns describe as a “proposed story that makes completely baseless claims against the Suns organization concerning a variety of topics.” https://t.co/F79akLQoDB pic.twitter.com/j2F0cRReX1
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 22, 2021
“I categorically deny any and all suggestions that I used disparaging language related to race or gender. I would like to think that my actions and public record regarding race, gender, or discrimination of any kind, over a lifetime in business and community service, will adequately answer any questions anyone might raise about my commitment to equality and fairness.”
Suns general manager James Jones also released a statement in defense of Sarver.
“None of what’s been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like — it just doesn’t,” Jones said.
The Teamwork Effect
Suns team president and CEO Jason Rowley also made a statement. He defended the basketball franchises.
“The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury organization takes very seriously our commitment to promoting a respectful, fun, competitive, and enriching work environment, and we are proud of our track record relating to employee wellbeing.
If Robert Sarver is removed as owner of the Phoenix Suns by the NBA, you have to wonder if minority owner and Arizona Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald would temporarily step in to a bigger role.
— Evan Sidery (@esidery) October 22, 2021
“We also take seriously any allegations of racism, sexism, or harassment of any kind, which have no place in our organization and are not tolerated. With respect to recent reports about a forthcoming ESPN article regarding Robert Sarver and our organization, I will simply say that we are aware of the false narratives it contains, and plan to respond accordingly.”
Rowley also went on the offensive against the ESPN reporter who is filing the story.
“It doesn’t represent — at all — the Robert Sarver I’ve worked alongside for 15 years. He’s not a racist, and he’s not a sexist. I will also say that the reporter in this instance has shown a reckless disregard for the truth.
robert sarver: pic.twitter.com/2TJFwURclk
— The FlareScreen – KR (@TheFlareScreen) October 18, 2021
“He has harassed employees, former employees, and family members; used truths, half-truths and rumors to manufacture a story in which he’s heavily invested and then perpetuate a completely false narrative within the sports industry to back it up. His tactics throughout this process have been without any basis in journalism ethics or even morality.”
The PR Machine
The Phoenix Suns organization posted statements on its Twitter account, to get ahead of the upcoming article from ESPN.
“We understand that ESPN is considering publishing a proposed story that makes completely baseless claims against the Suns Legacy Partners, LLC organization concerning a variety of topics.
“Documentary evidence in our possession and eyewitness accounts directly contradict the reporter’s accusations, and we are preparing our response to his questions. We urge everyone not to rush to judgment here. Especially based on lies, innuendo, and a false narrative to attack our organization and its leadership.”
Phoenix Suns fans:
“Why hasn’t Deandre Ayton gotten an extension yet?”
— Backcourt Violation (@backcourtv) October 18, 2021
Sarver has been recognized for hiring head coach Monty Williams going into the 2019-20 season. However, he received criticism for Suns starting center Deandre Ayton not receiving a rookie max extension or any extension going into the fourth and final year of his initial rookie deal.
The NBA has been lauded as a player-first league with a diversity-focused commissioner in Adam Silver.