Robert Sarver, the owner of N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. teams in Phoenix, said he planned to sell both teams after an investigation found that he had mistreated employees for years. Sarver owns the N.B.A.’s Suns and the W.N.B.A.’s Mercury.
The N.B.A. fined him $10 million and suspended him for one year, but several prominent players, one of the teams’ minority owners and a major sponsor have called for a harsher punishment. Tamika Tremaglio, the executive director of the N.B.A. players’ union, said Sarver should be barred for life.
In a statement Wednesday, Sarver said he expected that his one-year suspension would have given him enough time to “make amends and remove my personal controversy” from the teams that he owns.
“But in our current unforgiving climate,” Sarver added, “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.”
The N.B.A. announced its penalties last week after releasing a 43-page public report by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, which conducted a nearly yearlong investigation into Sarver’s conduct in his 18 years with the basketball teams. According to the report, Sarver used racist language on multiple occasions, treated women unfairly, and bullied and demeaned employees.
Pressure appeared to be mounting on Sarver — and on the N.B.A. — in recent days. The Suns’ Chris Paul was among the high-profile players who called for stiffer penalties, saying he was “horrified and disappointed” by what he had read in the report. He described Sarver’s behavior as “atrocious.”
On Wednesday, LeBron James responded to a tweet about Sarver, saying, “I’m so proud to be a part of a league committed to progress!”
James, the Los Angeles Lakers star, said last week in a post on Twitter that the league “definitely got this wrong,” referring to the fine and suspension as punishment for Sarver.
“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right,” he said. “There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.”
This is breaking news, and the article will be updated.