Robert Sarver wants forgiveness for behavior he attacked in ESPN report
Robert Sarver wants forgiveness for behavior he attacked in ESPN report

Robert Sarver wants forgiveness for behavior he attacked in ESPN report

  • Robert Sarver said in a statement that he is selling the Phoenix Suns and Mercury because of the “unforgiving current climate.”
  • Sarver said he believes he will use his one-year suspension for workplace misconduct as a way to grow and do “good.”
  • When ESPN reported that Sarver used the “N-word” and made inappropriate comments to employees, Sarver slammed the report as false.

Robert Sarver announced Wednesday that he plans to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury following a one-year suspension and $10 million fine for workplace misconduct.

Sarver — who was found to have said the “N-word” at least five times and made inappropriate, sex-related comments to employees — blamed the “unforgiving current climate” for the decision to sell the teams.

“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness,” Sarver said in a statement. “I expected the commissioner’s one-year suspension would give me time to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversies from the teams that I and so many fans love.

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“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that this is no longer possible — that any good I have done, or might do, is outweighed by the things I have said in the past.”

This recent statement contrasts with Sarver’s reaction when ESPN’s Baxter Holmes initially reported Sarver’s workplace misconduct in November 2021.

Many of the details in the ESPN report were corroborated by the NBA’s investigation.

However, when the report was first published, Sarver released his own statement, calling it “misleading”, “inaccurate” and “false”.

“I am still shocked by the false reporting from Baxter Holmes,” Sarver said. “While there are so many inaccurate and misleading things 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. I don’t use that word.”

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Sarver added that he “would welcome” an outside investigation, which he said “may prove to be our only way to clear my name and the reputation of an organization that I am so proud of.”

When the NBA announced its punishment for Sarver earlier this month, the 60-year-old businessman said he disagreed with some of the details of the investigation but apologized and said he would use the suspension to to find out (the NBA also mandated that he take on-the-job conduct training).

It’s a serious turn – from furiously denying he’s ever done anything wrong to saying he deserves an opportunity to grow.

Robert Sarver.

Robert Sarver.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

But there are questions about whether Sarver is legitimately sorry for his actions. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Holmes reported that Sarver disagreed with the idea that he deserved a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine for his actions. Wojnarowksi and Holmes described the sentencing process as “acrimonious”.

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The independent investigation into Sarver determined that his behavior was not racist or sexist in nature, but attempts at “somogenous” humor. Investigators said Sarver acted as if “workplace rules and policies did not apply to him.”

However, many in the NBA world believed that Sarver had fallen out of favor and should not continue to serve as the Suns’ governor. LeBron James said there is no place for Sarver in the NBA. Draymond Green said the league should hold a vote among owners to terminate Sarver’s ownership. Suns vice president and minority owner Jahm Najafi called for Sarver’s resignation in a statement.

While Sarver may feel like he’s a victim of the cancellation culture, many would argue he’s still coming out of the blue — he’s poised to make hundreds of millions in profit from selling teams.

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