This past week, Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver was in headlines across the League as allegations had arisen that he issued workplace harassment. The misconduct in ownership featured racist and misogynistic comments that forced the NBA to suspend Sarver for one year while handing him a $10 million fine.
Basketball fans hope he’d be terminated altogether, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes he has ‘no right’ to remove Sarver from his position in ownership of the teams.
“I don’t have the right to take away his team,” said Silver. “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. But, to me, the consequences are severe here on Mr. Sarver.”
The NBA has faced racial misconduct amongst ownership in the past, most notably from Donald Sterling, former Los Angeles Clippers owner. The racist comments he made to his mistress on a leaked audio recording forced the NBA to take action and ban Sterling from any NBA events for life. Many feel that Sarver’s comments have been just as bad, if not worse than Sterling’s, and the League is now facing questions about whether or not they are handling ethical guidelines solemnly.
When asked why termination wouldn’t apply to an owner but would to an average employee of the League, Silver said: “What it would take to remove that team from his control is a very involved process, and it’s different than holding a job. It just is. When you actually own a team, it’s just a very different proposition.”
Further investigation of the case revealed that Sarver had been using the N-Word pretty openly and allegedly used it ‘five times’ around the workplace.
Although Sarver has already pledged to take complete accountability and practice ethical values, many fans and leadership across the League will not condone the moral decision to give him a one-year suspension. A suspension of that nature and donations to organizations addressing race and gender-based issues shouldn’t overcome the harassment tolerated by employees in Phoenix. Further action may be in store from Commissioner Silver.