PHOENIX (AP) – The NBA has asked a law firm to investigate the Phoenix Suns after a report was released Thursday detailing claims that owner Robert Sarver had a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents during his 17-year tenure as head of the franchise. …
ESPN said it spoke to dozens of current and former team members, including those who detailed Sarver’s misconduct. Most of the claims come from anonymous sources, but some of them are officially recorded.
In an ESPN report, Sarver denied or contested most of the allegations through his legal team. The Suns also vehemently denied the report in a lengthy statement released Thursday.
“I fully applaud the NBA’s impartial investigation, which may be our only way to clear my name and the reputation of an organization that I am very proud of,” Sarver said.
Sarver will grant his wish. The NBA released its own statement from executive vice president of public affairs Mike Bass, which said the allegations were “extremely serious” and that the league had asked law firm Wachtell Lipton to “initiate a full investigation.”
“The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees,” Bass said. “Once the investigation is complete, the results will form the basis for any league action.”
Among the allegations: Former Suns coach Earl Watson said Sarver was upset that Golden State striker Draymond Greene used the N-word during his 2016 game and that the owner repeated the N-word several times to express his displeasure. Watson said he told Sarver that he could not use the word.
Watson coached the Suns for all or part of the Suns before being fired for three games in 2017-18.
In a statement, Sarver said Watson was “clearly an unreliable source.”
“While there is so much inaccurate and misleading in this story that I don’t even know where to start, let me be clear: the n-word is not part of my vocabulary,” Sarver said. “I have never called anyone or any group of people with a word in Russian, and I have never mentioned anyone or any group of people with this word, either verbally or in writing. I am not using that word. “
Watson released a statement of his own through the Toronto Raptors, where he is now an assistant coach.
“I’m not interested in the ongoing battle of facts,” Watson said. “Instead, I want to salute the courage of numerous players, leaders and employees in the fight against a toxic environment of racial insensitivity, sexual harassment and micro-aggression with their truth.
“Basketball and 17 years in the NBA have given me the financial privilege of telling the truth, but we cannot forget about those who must remain silent for fear of losing their jobs.”
The report also details how Sarver gave employees a photograph of his wife in a Suns bikini. The report said more than a dozen employees also stated that Sarver had a history of “obscene comments in all staff meetings.”
In an ESPN story, Bass said the NBA “has not received any complaints of misconduct at the Suns through any of our processes, including our confidential workplace misconduct hotline or other correspondence.”
Sarver has owned Suns since 2004. The 59-year-old Phoenix businessman also owns the Phoenix Mercury WNBA club.
The Suns have one of the most successful seasons in their history, reaching the NBA Finals with stars Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton before losing six games to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns reached the final three times – in 1976, 1993 and 2021, but never won the championship.
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