The NBA is launching an investigation into the Phoenix Suns and the conduct of majority owner Robert Sarver, the league said Thursday.
The league’s announcement that it will use the Wachtell Lipton law firm to conduct the investigation follows ESPN’s release of an investigative story based on interviews with more than 70 current and former Suns employees who described a location. of sometimes toxic and hostile work of racism and sexism during Sarver’s 17-year tenure in Phoenix.
Referencing NBA commissioner Adam Silver, a current business operations employee told ESPN: “If the commissioner comes in and investigates to see what the hell is going on in Phoenix, [él] he would be horrified. “
“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton Law Firm to begin a thorough investigation,” NBA executive vice president of communications Mike Bass said in a statement. “The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees. Once the investigation is complete, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”
Two current Suns employees said there is considerable internal support across the organization for an independent investigation into the franchise culture and that many employees, as one put it, would be “more than willing to speak” with investigators.
Said the second employee: “A lot of people see this as their chance to right this ship.”
Both employees noted, however, that an imminent concern among members of the organization is whether sensitive information, as well as their identities, would remain confidential to avoid any possible retaliation from Suns leaders. Said the first Suns employee: “We have to be protected.”
Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi said in a statement that he would assist in any NBA investigation.
“The conduct he allegedly committed has surprised and saddened me and is unacceptable,” Najafi said of Sarver. “The well-being and safety of every Suns employee, player, coach, and shareholder is our priority first and foremost. My condolences go out to all whose lives and professions have been affected … Although today’s revelations fall under the jurisdiction of the League, which decides and takes any action based on their finding, I offer my support to ensure full liability exists. “
In Silver’s tenure since 2014, the NBA has launched two major investigations, with the LA Clippers and Atlanta Hawks, significantly focused on property behavior that ended team sales. Firing an owner for violations of the NBA constitution and bylaws requires a three-quarter vote of the league’s board of governors.
Silver granted former Clippers owner Donald Sterling a lifetime suspension in April 2014 following the release of audiotapes that included his use of racist language about blacks, including his players. Sterling made a subsequent appearance on CNN that further damaged his league position, and the Clippers were eventually sold for an NBA-record $ 2 billion to Steve Ballmer in August 2014.
Under pressure from a league investigation, Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson sold the franchise to a group led by Tony Ressler for $ 850 million in 2015. Levenson was part of a league investigation that included self-report from an internal email he sent that included several racially-tinged comments about the Hawks fan base.
The Dallas Mavericks were at the center of a league investigation into sexual harassment and allegations of workplace misconduct in the wake of a Sports Illustrated article in 2018. Following the league’s findings, the Mavericks owner , Mark Cuban, donated 10 million to charities, including those that fight against domestic violence, violence against women. Cuban was not suspended or punished.