The NBA announced Tuesday it suspended Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million after verifying allegations of racism, sexism and other workplace violations.
The decision follows an independent investigation that found Sarver, who also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, engaged in conduct that “included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying.”
“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
“On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report,” he continued. “We must do better.”
Key findings include Sarver repeating the N-word “when recounting the statements of others” on at least five occasions, making “inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women” and regularly “yelling and cursing” at employees. On several occasions, he “engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees,” the investigation also found.
Sarver is white, like nearly every other NBA owner, despite the vast majority of players being Black and the league having one of the biggest Black fan bases of any U.S. sport.
The NBA’s conclusions about Sarver’s conduct came after interviewing 320 people and reviewing 80,000 documents, including emails, text messages and videos.
The allegations that prompted the investigation were first reported in an ESPN exposé published last November.
Sarver’s suspension means he cannot be present at any NBA or WNBA facility, attend or participate in any official activities, represent the teams in any public or private capacity, or be involved in any team or league business operations for the next year.
Sarver must spend his suspension period in a training program instructing him on appropriate conduct in the workplace.
The proceeds from his $10 million fine will be donated to organizations “addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace,” the NBA vowed Tuesday.
The NBA is also compelling the Suns/Mercury organization to make some changes, including taking workplace policy recommendations from an outside firm.