Embattled Phoenix Suns Owner Says He Will Sell His NBA & WNBA Franchises: “Path To Forgiveness”

A week after the Phoenix Suns’ primary owner was suspended by the NBA for “clearly” violating its workplace standards, Robert Sarver said today that he is “beginning the process of seeking buyers” for that team and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

Sarver’s yearlong suspension and $10 million fine came after an independent NBA probe into allegations, fueled by an ESPN exposé, that he used racist language and mistreated employees. The investigation also found that he was involved in “instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees,” including “sex-related comments” and inappropriate comments on employees’ appearances.

But the league and Commissioner Adam Silver immediately took flak for what many considered a too-lenient penalty.

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The Suns’ All-Star guard Chris Paul — who is a former president of the NBA Players’ Association and was part of the Los Angeles Clippers when that team’s owner Donald Sterling was banned for life by the league over racists comments — said last week: ““I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read [and] am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior.”

Lakers star LeBron James said at the time: “There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place,”  “Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team.”

James, however, trumpeted today news, tweeting, “I’m so proud to be a part of a league committed to progress!” Paul had yet to weigh in today.

Sarver in paid $401 million in 2004 for a roughly one-third stake in both Phoenix basketball franchises, becoming their primary owner. Today the Suns are valued at more than $1.8 billion, per a Forbes report in October.

Here is the full statement Sarver released today:

Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball.

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

But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.

In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together.

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