ESPN Report Finds Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver Racist and Sexist

Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver fell under heavy scrutiny when he neglected to offer starting center Deandre Ayton a max contract extension a few weeks ago. But now, he finds himself under a far more egregious microscope.

ESPN’s Baxter Holmes just published a story Thursday morning detailing Sarver’s tenure as owner, which referenced countless acts of racism and sexism on his behalf. Holmes spoke to over 70 current and former Suns employees, with countless coming forward to describe an incredibly unwelcoming work environment.

The piece led off describing an incident between Sarver and former head coach Earl Watson, where Sarver “repeated the N-word several times in a row,” when arguing about his authority to say the racial slur compared to that of Draymond Green. Things only got worse from there.

From that point on, Holmes told several other horrific stories involving Sarver and his work associates, including another account where Sarver only hired former coach Linsey Hunter due to his race.

"Sarver once used the N-word when trying to explain to a staffer why he preferred hiring Lindsey Hunter over Dan Majerle as head coach in 2013, according to a high-level executive who heard the remark. Hunter was a first-year Suns player development coordinator while Majerle was in his fifth year as a Suns associate head coach.“These [N-words] need a [N-word],” Sarver told the staffer of his largely Black team, according to the executive."

An unnamed Suns co-owner described the situation with Sarver at the helm for the team as well. “The level of misogyny and racism is beyond the pale,” he said. “It’s embarrassing as an owner.”

The article went on to explain several incidents where Sarver illustrated sexist behaviour. One account described Sarver acting derogatorily toward women.

"More than a dozen employees recalled Sarver making lewd comments in all-staff meetings, including discussing times when his wife would perform oral sex on him. Four former employees said that in several all-staff meetings Sarver claimed he needed to wear Magnum or extra-large condoms. Former employees said he asked players about their sex lives and the sexual prowess of their significant others.“Women have very little value,” one female former staffer said she felt. “Women are possessions. And I think we’re nowhere close to where he thinks men are.”"

Sarver’s alleged mistreatment of his staff pushed several people to their breaking points. One former female employee described her time working with Sarver saying, “It wrecked my life. I was contemplating suicide.”

Both a current executive for the Suns and another former staff member went on to share their displeasures with Sarver running the team, referencing Phoenix’s career opportunities page.

"The first letter of each bullet point spells out an acrostic: “FAMILY.”“That’s our motto, right? That’s what they shove down our throats,” said one longtime staffer who recently left the team.“If it involves revenue, OK, we’re ‘family values,'” said a current Suns executive. “But let me tell you, that is the biggest piece of s— document they’ve got in that place.”"

According to the story, Sarver also frequently and unpleasantly interfered with coaching game plans, made the team’s HR department useless, and pantsed former Suns account executive David Bodzin in front of “more than 60 people.”

Although Sarver issued an apology for the incident with Bodzin, he refuted almost every other story or brief statement made by those who Holmes interviewed. Lon Babby, Phoenix’s former President of Basketball Operations and current Suns CEO and President Jason Rowley also defended Sarver.

“This story is completely outrageous and false,” said Rowley. “It doesn’t represent — at all — the Robert Sarver I’ve worked alongside of for 15 years. He’s not a racist and he’s not a sexist.”

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Today on ESPN’s SportsCenter, insider Adrian Wojnarowski said that he expects the league to now launch an investigation into Holmes’s story, but the NBA still has yet to do so.