Robert Sarver’s unexpected decision to begin the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Mercury should have relieved many on Wednesday. Employees of the two franchises first. Those who had reported racist and misogynistic comments from their boss, often bordering on harassment. “You can move forward without the pain and anxiety associated with your leadership”one of them told ESPN, the outlet that revealed the accusations almost a year ago.
The players too. “Proud to belong to a League dedicated to progress”LeBron James tweeted a few minutes after the announcement. Suns star Chris Paul expressed his discomfort when the NBA released a report last week confirming ESPN’s allegations.
But it is perhaps in the offices of the NBA and in the headquarters of other franchises where it is best to breathe. Adam Silver, praised until now for his work as “commissioner”, saw criticism fall when the League announced his sanction after the report: a one-year suspension and a fine of ten million dollars. Explain that an owner “has special rights” compared to an employee did nothing to help the crisis. On Wednesday he contented himself with a two-sentence press release: “I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision. It is the right choice for the organization and the community”.
On his podcast Tuesday, Draymond Green, unhappy with the initial sanction, had invited the other owners to vote that Donald Sterling was forced to sell the Clippers in 2014 under comparable circumstances. They won’t have to. Sarver removed a thorn from their feet.
The press release from the future former Suns owner poorly hides his frustration and some resentment. “I thought the one-year suspension would give me time to make amends. […] but in the current unforgiving climate it became clear that this was impossible, that all the good I have done or could have continued to do was outweighed by the things I have said in the past.”wrote who presents himself as a man of faith.
75% of NBA basketball players are African-American
Born in Arizona, Sarver grew up there, went to college and built the family fortune. The investor bought the Suns and Mercury in 2004. In recent years, he has put two black men at the helm of his organization, coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones. Two men who in 2021 led the franchise to its first NBA Finals since 1993. In 2010, he also publicly opposed a bill targeting Hispanics in the state that borders Mexico. He then he regrets that his words “overshadow two decades of building organizations that have brought the Phoenix area together and made it stronger”.
Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights figure, wants to see the end of an era, that of the “Club of old racist owners who treat black players as if they were their property”. 75% of NBA basketball players are African American. Most of the owners are white billionaires. At 60, Sarver will soon leave the club. His franchise purchased for $400 million would be worth four and a half times as much today.