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In 2004, Suns owner Robert Sarver used the N-word in a meeting to sign a free agent player. In 2021, Sarver talked about learning what a “blowjob” was at a Suns business meeting.

During the 17 years between the two, Sarver was often a tyrant, the man who oversaw a Suns organization with racist and misogynistic overtones. All of this and more is detailed in a 36-page report stemming from an NBA investigation into the franchise by law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

The report found more than 100 employees who said Sarver “violated applicable standards” of business conduct, but the legalese sells short on what employees were dealing with. For example, he “told a pregnant employee that she would be unable to do her job if she became a mother”, he “made a comment to an employee about her genitals” (this happened more than once), he sent pornographic material to some other male colleagues, Sarver used the N-word at least five times, he often swore, and “more than 50 current and former employees reported that Sarver frequently engaged in a degrading and harsh treatment of employees”.

All of this is just the tip of a very worrying iceberg in the report. Nearly every incident detailed was something that would cause nearly everyone reading this to be kicked out.

Still, Sarver will still own and work in the Phoenix Suns offices a year from now.

Sarver was suspended by the NBA for a year for creating a hostile work environment, and he was fined $10 million – with that money earmarked for organizations focused on racial and gender issues at the venue work and off – but he won’t lose control of the team.

The most shocking report was this paragraph:

“Taking all of the evidence, including testimony and documents reviewed by investigators, the inquest does not find that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender animus.”

Are they kidding? How could nearly two decades of this consistent behavior not be driven by racial or gender animosity? Just because Sarver doesn’t recognize him as animus doesn’t make him any less real.

The NBA chose to take it easy with Sarver. The punishments should have been more severe, including maybe the loss of the team. A year is a slap on the wrist.

Why wasn’t Sarver forced to sell his team like Donald Sterling was with the Clippers eight years ago? Why did Sarver receive essentially the same punishment as the Mavericks for troubling issues on their business side, but ones unrelated to owner Mark Cuban and spanning decades?

In Sterling’s case, there was audio (leaked by his mistress to TMZ) – in fact, hearing the despicable and racist comments from Sterling himself made it more visceral. There is no audio or video of Sarver, no compelling evidence to the same degree, despite the volume of complaints in the report.

Those Sterling tapes also came out during the playoffs, leading to strong reactions from players – including almost a boycott of a game – and a very public outburst against the Clippers’ then-owner.

Many NBA sponsors – State Farm, Carmax, Kia, Red Bull and many more – also walked away from the Clippers and the league following the release of the Sterling tapes. The second the scandal hit league results, Adam Silver acted quickly and decisively.

The Sarver scandal fell in the deadliest part of the NBA’s offseason and didn’t see the same level of player involvement and public anger as the Sterling case. There was no backlash from sponsors. Sarver also “took responsibility” for his actions, which wasn’t a real apology but was more contrite than Sterling.

Also, remember that NBA commissioner Adam Silver works for – and to the delight of – NBA owners. Many of them live in glass houses and don’t want to start throwing stones.

If the NBA isn’t going to step up with a punishment that is a true deterrent (and reflective of the offense), it needs to at least find a way to prevent it from happening in other NBA (and WNBA) franchises. ). Silver sent a memo to teams following the Mavericks scandal telling them to clean up their own homes, but that hasn’t happened everywhere, as evidenced by this report.

If the NBA wants to stand up for its progressive policies and credentials — if it claims to stand for diversity, inclusion, and equality — it needs to start respecting them within teams. They cannot just be words.

What can be done? Sam Amick of The Athletic wisely suggests that the NBA find a way for team employees to complain about working conditions/situations and have them investigated, rather than going to team human resources. . In Phoenix, people didn’t come forward because they feared retaliation from HR, which was seen as an extension of Sarver’s will and not something to protect workers. It may be so with other teams, the NBA needs an anonymous complaint.

There may also be other stages. The owners may not want more league oversight of their business, but if they can’t control themselves, the NBA has no choice. Not that the NBA itself is blameless here — the Sarver and Sterling situations dragged on for decades before there was action. It’s not acceptable.

The league needs to do more. It may take some real pressure from players and league sponsors to make that happen.

He fined and suspended Sarver, but failed to take the action that would put God’s (or Adam Silver’s) fear in the other owners. It was only a first step.

It’s time for the NBA to live up to its words and ideals.