NEW YORK – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday that the one-year suspension he gave to the Phoenix Suns and Mercury Owner Robert Sarver for making racist and misogynistic comments could have been longer, but he “has no right to take out his team”.
While Silver said Sarver was “aware” of future behavior, the main conclusion of the five-member panel that spent nine months working on the investigation was that Sarver’s use of slurs was not motivated by racial or gender hostility. “
The NBA announced Tuesday that Sarver will receive a $10 million fine and a one-year suspension following an ESPN story in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.
“It was relevant,” Silver said of the panel’s conclusion. “I think if they found that his behavior was motivated by racial hostility, that would certainly have affected the bottom line here. But that’s not what they found.”
Because of this, Silver has issued the maximum fine that the league allows. But he said the lack of racial hostility was the reason Sarver’s suspension was for a full year and no more.
“I have a certain authority to rule this organization, and that’s what I exercise,” Silver said. “I don’t have the right to fire his team. I don’t want to rest from this legal point because of course there can be a process of pulling someone’s team out in this league. She is very involved, and I made that in the end the decision not to rise to that level. But for me The consequences here are dire for Mr. Sarver.”
The NBA on Tuesday released the report by law firms Wachtell, Lipton, and Rosen & Katz. The investigation found that during his time with the Suns and WNBA’s Mercury, Sarver used the N-word at least five times “when telling others’ sayings.”
The investigation also revealed “cases of unfair behavior towards female employees”, including “sex-related comments” and inappropriate comments on female employees’ appearance.
Some have criticized the league penalty. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James on social media Wednesday, saying in part: “Dorina definitely got it wrong on this one.”
National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamica Tremaglio also criticized the discipline, calling Sarver’s repeated behavior “outrageous” while noting that “they have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter.”
“I have informed Adam Silver of my position regarding my thoughts on the extent of the penalty, and I strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should not hold a management position in our league again,” she said in a statement.
Silver said it was difficult to compare “someone who would commit an inappropriate act in the workplace in a fairly anonymous manner” with what Sarver did.
“There is no exact answer here, other than the rights that come with owning an NBA team, and how that is put into our constitution,” Silver said. “What it takes to remove this team from their control is a very complex process, and it’s different from taking a job. It’s just a process. When you actually own a team, it’s just a completely different proposition.”
At several points on Wednesday, Silver said he was aware of more than was publicly shared in the report and that he was unable to reveal more due to a confidentiality agreement signed as part of the investigation to anyone who wanted it.
“From a personal point of view, I was somewhat disbeliever about what I had learned that had happened over the past 18 years at the Suns,” Silver said. “I am heartbroken and frustrated. I want, once again, to apologize to the former and, in some cases, to the current staff of Phoenix Suns for what they had to experience. There is absolutely no excuse. We have taken up the matter. We have, of course, been following what has been said since we issued These results. Let me repeat, this behavior is untenable.”
Silver said access to that unpublished classified material played a role in the punishment that was imposed on Sarver.
“I’m able to look at the totality of the circumstances surrounding these events,” Silver said. “…I think that ultimately puts me in a different position as the one who has to make the final judgment about the fair outcome here.”
The commission that conducted the investigation included two black men and two women among its five members.
“I accept their work,” Silver said of the committee. “To go through what we think is an appropriate process here, to bring in a law firm, to have them basically spend nine months on this, to do the intense kinds of interviews they can do, I can’t put myself in their shoes. I respect the work they did, we’ve done with it “.
Sarver’s investigation and punishment have been compared to how the NBA handled the situation involving former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014, when Silver Sterling was suspended for life following audio recordings of Sterling making racist comments.
However, Silver does not agree that the two cases should be compared to each other.
“I believe what we saw in the case of Donald Sterling was blatant racist behavior directed at a select group of people. While it is difficult to know what is in someone’s heart or in their minds, we have heard these words…in the case for Robert Sarver, I would like to I’d say, first of all, we’re looking at the totality of circumstances over the 18-year period in which I’ve had these teams, and ultimately we’ve made a judgment — I’ve made a judgment — that under the circumstances in which he used that language and that behavior, that while, as I said, it was Untenable, he wasn’t strong enough.
“Using language and behaving in this way is far from pale in every possible way, but it was of a very different kind than what we had seen in that earlier case.”
At no time during the investigation did Silver discuss the possibility of Sarver voluntarily agreeing to sell the Suns.
“Robert Sarver and I spoke several times along the way, and I let the investigation unravel it,” Silver said. “We didn’t judge him in advance.”
Silver also went on to say that Sarver had taken “full accountability and appeared utterly remorseful”.
“Every day is a new day,” Silver said. “It’s not like we’ve closed the book.” “We have closed the book on these historical events. But whatever happens now, I don’t think there is any question that he will be scrutinized in terms of his conduct and rhetoric.”