Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver has announced that he has initiated the sale process for both franchises.
The move comes after Sarver was handed a year-long ban and $10 million fine by the NBA after the league investigated allegations that he engaged in racism, sexism and bullying.
The NBA announced that Sarver used the N-word at least five times during his nearly two-decade tenure as owner of the Suns and WNBAs Mercury, among other transgressions, including the use of language and behavior that demeans female employees.
In a statement released Wednesday, Sarver said, “Words I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that have brought people together through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball and strengthened the Phoenix area.
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s year-long suspension would give me the time 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 might do is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For these reasons, I’m starting to look for buyers for the Suns and Mercury.
“I don’t want to distract from these two teams and the amazing people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what is best for both of these organizations, the players, the staff, the fans, the community, my co-owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best practice for everyone.
“In the meantime, I will keep working to be a better person and continue to support the community in a meaningful way. Thank you for continuing to champion the Sun and Mercury and embrace the power that sport has to bring us together.’
Although witnesses claimed Sarver used the racial slur, the investigation found he either repeated the N-word or pretended to do so. The NBA did not find that Sarver used the term “with intent to demean or disparage him.”
Aside from saying the N-word “at least five times,” Sarver is also accused of using language and engaging in behavior that demeans female employees, including the time he asked a pregnant worker whether she would not be able to fulfill her duties after becoming a mother. The unidentified woman was ordered by a team leader to look for a new job and was eventually demoted.
The sentence has since been handed down to several NBA stars, including LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green, as some sought a lifetime ban.
A member of Sarver’s own tam, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, said he was “appalled and disappointed” by the report of Sarver’s behavior as he called the NBA’s sanctions inadequate.
Taking to Twitter to address the sanctions, Paul believed Sarver should have expected a harsher punishment.
He wrote: “Like many others, I checked the report. I was and am appalled and disappointed by what I read. This behavior, especially towards women, is unacceptable and must not be repeated.
“My view is that the sanctions have not really addressed what we all agree was cruel behaviour. My heart goes out to all the people who were affected.’
Lakers superstar James lashed out at the NBA for how it was handling the situation, insisting there was no place in the league for “that kind of behavior.”
He tweeted: “Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I have to be honest… Our league definitely got it wrong. I don’t need to explain why.
“Read all the stories and make up your own mind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place in this league for that kind of behavior.
“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But that’s not right.
“Misogyny, sexism and racism have no place in any workplace. Whether you own the team or play for the team. We hold up our league as an example of our values and it’s not.’
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors’ Green called on NBA owners to vote on whether to remove Sarver as the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, as he described his punishment as “bulls***.”
NBA rules state that three-fourths of the Board of Governors must agree for an owner to be removed to begin the process. Last week, Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear in a press conference that he cannot act alone when it comes to the “right to take away his team,” referring to Sarver.