SESPN finally released its massive investigation into the Phoenix Suns and owner Robert Sarver. The allegations are shocking.
Two weeks ago, the Phoenix Suns pre-emptively released statements, defending the organization and owner Robert Sarver from allegations that had yet to be made public. They were rumored to be coming in a massive piece of investigative reporting from ESPN.
The rumored article finally dropped today, penned by Baxter Holmes and based on interviews with 70 current and former employees. The allegations are just as bad and possibly worse than you might have expected. Here’s what ESPN’s report alleges:
Robert Sarver repeatedly used the N-word to refer to players
You don’t have to get far into Holmes’ report to find the first accusation of racist language and behavior from Sarver.
After the loss, Suns majority owner Robert Sarver entered the coaches locker room, Watson told ESPN.
“You know, why does Draymond Green get to run up the court and say [N-word],” Sarver, who is white, allegedly said, repeating the N-word several times in a row.
Sources also alleged that Sarver “too loosely used the term ‘Black guy’” during a meeting working to recruit Steve Nash to re-sign with the organization. Nash’s agent Bill Duffy and Amare Stoudemire, both of whom are Black, were reportedly in the meeting.
Sarver also reportedly used the N-word when explaining his reasoning for wanting to hire Lindsey Hunter as head coach, over longtime assist and Suns legend, Dan Majerle. Per ESPN: ‘These [N-words] need a [N-word],’ Sarver told the staffer of his largely Black team, according to the executive.”
Although he was not accused of using the same racial slur, the reporting also alleges that he spoke openly about race being part of his reasoning for hiring Earl Watson as head coach a few years later.
Sarver spoke openly about sexual anecdotes that created a culture of toxic misogyny
Just below the article’s lede, we get one specific anecdote alluding to many more to come.
Employees recounted conduct they felt was inappropriate and misogynistic, including Sarver once passing around a picture of his wife in a bikini to employees and speaking about times his wife performed oral sex on him. Some said the longtime owner fostered an environment in which employees felt they were his property, even once asking one woman whether he “owned” her to determine whether she worked for the Suns.
Other anecdotes from ESPN’s reporting include Sarver claiming “he needed to wear Magnum or extra-large condoms” and prodding players for details “about their sex lives and the sexual prowess of their significant others.” There was also an incident during the 2012-13 season where he reportedly, “offered to fly women to Los Angeles — the implication was clearly sexual — if players promised to be in bed at a reasonable hour before the next day’s game.”
And then there is this, which even if it’s a joke is an absolutely abhorrent idea to voice.
When the Suns were recruiting free agent LaMarcus Aldridge in the summer of 2015, the team knew that Aldridge had young children in Texas and that playing near them was appealing. During the recruitment, Sarver remarked to two basketball operations staffers that the Suns needed to have local strippers impregnated by NBA players so those players would have children in the Phoenix area and feel obliged to be closer to them, giving the Suns a potential edge in free agency, the now-former staffers said.
The article also lays out that many in the organization felt that Sarver’s behavior empowered other employees to feel comfortable engaging in offensive and inappropriate behavior. For example, another white executive reportedly referred to a Black colleague repeatedly as Carlton and asked him to “do the Carlton,” referring to the titular dance of Alfonso Ribeiro’s character in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. There are also numerous examples of sexual harassment from a variety of executives, including Sarver, and of harassment and assault being routinely ignored or minimized.
Sarver threatened to fire head coach Earl Watson unless he cut ties with his agency Klutch Sports
According to ESPN, Sarver felt slighted by a comment from Rich Paul during contract negotiations for Eric Bledsoe. Paul ran Klutch Sports, which also counted head coach Earl Watson among its clients and Sarver appeared to take his frustration out on his own employee.
Sarver erupted at the dig, according to two people with knowledge of the interaction, telling Paul he was going to fire Watson as the team’s head coach if Watson didn’t sever ties with Klutch, which had been representing Watson, within 10 days – just after the start of the season.
Watson said that Sarver’s ultimatum quickly reached him. He asked Sarver if he was serious.
“Yeah, I will f—ing fire you,” Sarver told Watson. “You have 10 days to think about it. Don’t wait too long.”
Sarver repeatedly meddled with players and the coaching staff on strategy and and skill development
Among the anecdotes in the story, there are repeated incidents of Sarver berating coaches after the game on issues of strategy, drawing up his own plays and circumventing staff to discuss his strategic ideas directly with players. He also reportedly has pushed hard for Deandre Ayton to take more 3-pointers, a point the coaching staff has mostly disagreed with him on.
According to ESPN, in a variety of statements, Sarver denied most of the specific interactions and anecdotes or offered minimized alternate explanations for why they weren’t as bad as they sounded or had been misconstrued. Several Suns executives and employees also offered statements of support for Sarver, saying these stories were not representative of the man they know.
I guess you can decide who to believe.