NBA Launches Investigation Against Phoenix Suns Owner

The National Basketball Association has launched an official investigation into the Phoenix Suns and owner Robert Sarver following allegations of racism and misogyny in the country. ESPN report released on Thursday

“The allegations in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious and we have directed law firm Wachtell Lipton to launch a full investigation,” the NBA said in a statement Thursday.

“The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees,” the leagues continued. “Once the investigation is complete, the results will form the basis for any league action.”

The investigation follows a highly anticipated ESPN report that contained multiple racist and misogynistic allegations against Sarver during his 17-year tenure as Suns owner. ESPN’s coverage is based on interviews with over 70 current and former Suns employees.

Pending a report, The Suns denied in October that Sarver was racist and sexist.

On Thursday, Sarver denied the allegations, calling the report “inaccurate and misleading.” according to NBC Sports… He also welcomed the investigation launched by the league.

“At this stage, I would fully welcome an impartial NBA 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.

The ESPN article includes several cases in which Sarver and his lawyers have denied or contested various claims.

Former Suns head coach Earl Watson, who is currently an assistant to the Toronto Raptors and has been quoted throughout ESPN history, applauded those who spoke of Sarver’s behavior.

“I want to salute the courage of the many players, leaders and employees in tackling the toxic environment of racial insensitivity, sexual harassment and micro-aggression with their truth,” Watson said. said in a Twitter post.

Among the accusations in the ESPN report was that Sarver repeatedly used the N word to address coaches and players.

According to the report, in one such instance, Sarver allegedly used the word when talking to Watson about Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green after playing in 2016. Watson said he repeatedly told Sarver not to use the word, according to ESPN.

Sarver who bought the Suns in 2004 for a record 401 million dollars at the time denied accusations of using the N word for ESPN.

“I have never called anyone or any group of people with an N word and have never called anyone or a group of people with an N word, either verbally or in writing,” Sarver told ESPN through his legal team. “I’m not using that word. It’s disgusting, ugly, demeaning and contrary to everything I believe in. “

Other allegations in the ESPN report relate to alleged misogyny and inappropriate behavior.

Staff claimed that Sarver repeatedly asked players about their “sex life and the sexual prowess of those close to them,” ESPN reported.

Others have recounted a case in which Sarver allegedly gave employees a photo of his wife in a bikini and discussed instances of her having oral sex with him, the report said.

According to the report, some employees also claimed that Sarver created an environment in which employees felt like his own. Sarver reportedly asked one woman if he “owned” her to determine if she was a Suns employee.

Recent accusations of racism and sexism by NBA leaders have led to a variety of consequences. In 2014, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA and fined $ 2.5 million after leaking an audio recording of his tape in which he made racist comments.

Tony Ronzone, director of human resources for the Dallas Mavericks, was also fired in April after sexual assault allegations published in Sports Illustrated 2020.

Earlier Thursday, Suns vice chairman Jam Najafi offered support in a potential Sarver investigation.

“The behavior he allegedly committed has stunned and saddened me and is unacceptable,” Najafi said in a statement. “The well-being and safety of every Suns employee, player, coach and stakeholder is our first priority. I sincerely sympathize with everyone whose lives and professions have been affected. “

He added: “The Phoenix Suns are a national treasure that belongs to all of us as fans and residents of our community. Team investors are just temporary stewards of this treasure. “

Najafi recently continued his racial diversity and equality efforts following the 2020 racial justice protests.

In February, Najafi teamed up with former NFL star and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick to launch Mission Advancement, a special-purpose acquisition company committed to diversity and fairness. according to the Seattle Times. SPAC is seeking to raise $ 287 to acquire a private company that shares the same commitment.

Najafi also participates in the NBA fund, founded in August, which aims to “empower black communities economically” by funding employment programs and making black youth work-ready, according to the Seattle Times. The foundation was founded just three weeks before NBA players announced a three-day boycott to draw attention to the police shooting at Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

FIX: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of the name of Suns Vice Chairman Jahm Najafi.

Jessica Golden of CNBC contributed to this report.

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