The NBA and WNBA owner cited an “unforgiving climate” in his decision to sell the teams.
Just over a week after the NBA handed down a $10 million fine and suspension of one year to Mercury and Suns owner Robert Sarver following a league investigation into workplace misconduct, he announced that he will sell the two franchises. As has been the case with many of the statements he has released throughout the probe into his conduct with the two franchises, the announcement that he will sell them is also catching some significant criticism.
The investigation found that Sarver had used the n-word at least five times “when recounting the statements of others” during his time with the Mercury and Suns. It also found that he consistently acted inappropriately toward employees, including “instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees,” which included “sex-related comments,” the league said in its release. Sarver also reportedly engaged in “inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees.”
“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,” Sarver said in the statement released Wednesday, in which he announced his intention to sell the teams.
“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.”
Sarver’s decision to sell the teams comes just over a week after the NBA’s decision to suspend him, hardly enough time to determine whether the supposed “unforgiving climate” would allow him to eventually redeem himself. It also comes after NBA commissioner Adam Silver declined to entertain the idea of forcing Sarver to sell the Suns.
“I don’t have the right to take away his team,” Silver said in response to a question from Sports Illustrated‘s Howard Beck after the suspension was handed down.
“I don’t want to rest on that legal point because, of course, there could be a process to take away someone’s team in this league. It’s very involved and I ultimately made the decision that it didn’t rise to that level.”
Those around the basketball world are not impressed with what many perceive as Sarver’s attempt to paint himself as a victim in this situation.
Sarver stands to sell the Suns alone for upwards of $2 billion, as valued by Sportico, after acquiring the his controlling share of the team for $401 million in 2004.