NBA commissioner Adam Silver says ‘I don’t have the right to take away’ Phoenix Suns from owner Robert Sarver

NEW YORK — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday the year-long suspension he imposed on Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver for making racist and misogynistic comments could have been longer, but he doesn’t have “the right to take it away from his team.” .”

While Silver said Sarver was “aware” of future behavior, the key conclusion of the five-member panel that worked on the investigation for nine months was that Sarver’s use of insults was not motivated “by racial or gender animus.” . “

The NBA announced Tuesday that Sarver would be fined $10 million and given a one-year suspension after an ESPN story in November 2021 allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver’s 17 years as owner.

“It was relevant,” Silver said of the committee’s conclusion. “I think if they had determined that his behavior was indeed motivated by racist animus, that would have absolutely had an impact on the final outcome here. But they didn’t find that.”

And because of that, Silver handed out the maximum penalty allowed by the league. But he said the lack of racist animus is why Sarver’s suspension is only for a full calendar year and no longer.

“I have a certain authority because of this organization and I exercise it,” Silver said. “I don’t have the right to take his team away. I don’t want to rest on that legal point because of course there could be a process to take away someone’s team in this league. It’s very complicated, and I ended up making the decision that it didn’t go to that level. But to me, the implications here for Mr. Sarver are grave.

The NBA released the report by law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz on Tuesday. The investigation found that Sarver used the N-word at least five times “when reciting what others said” during his time with the Suns and WNBA’s Mercury.

The investigation also uncovered “incidents of unfair behavior towards female employees,” including “sexual comments” and inappropriate comments about employee appearances.

The league’s punishment drew criticism from some, with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Suns veteran Chris Paul making harsh remarks on social media on Wednesday.

Tamika Tremaglio, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, also criticized the discipline, calling Sarver’s repeated behavior “horrific,” while noting that they “have no place in our sport or in any workplace.”

“I have shared my position with Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment and I firmly believe that Mr. Sarver should never again hold a leadership position in our league,” she said in a statement.

Silver said it’s hard to compare “someone who is in some way anonymously committing an inappropriate act in the workplace” to what Sarver did.

“There’s no real answer here other than the rights that come with owning an NBA team, as enshrined in our constitution,” Silver said. “What it takes to get this team out of their control is a very complicated process and it’s different than keeping a job. It just is. When you actually own a team, it’s just a whole different matter.”

At several points Wednesday, Silver said he knew more than what was publicly disclosed in the report and was unable to disclose more to anyone who wanted to because of a confidentiality agreement signed as part of the investigation.

“Personally, I was, to a degree, in disbelief at what I had experienced over the past 18 years in the Suns organization,” Silver said. “I was sad about it, discouraged. I would like to once again apologize to the former and in some cases current employees of the Phoenix Suns for what they have had to go through. There is absolutely no excuse for that. We addressed it. I, of course, have been following what has been said since we published these statements. Let me repeat, the behavior is unjustifiable.”

Silver said access to this unpublished, confidential material played a role in Sarver’s punishment.

“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 person who has to make the final judgment on what is a fair result here.”

The committee conducting the investigation included two black men and two women among its five members, Silver said.

“I accept their work,” Silver said of the committee. “To follow what we think is an appropriate process here, bringing in a law firm, essentially having them spend nine months conducting the extensive types of interviews they can do, I can’t empathize with them . I respect the work that they have done, that we have done.”

Sarver’s investigation and punishment has been compared to the NBA’s handling of the situation of former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014, when Silver suspended Sterling for life after audio recordings of Sterling made racist comments.

However, Silver disagrees that the two situations should be compared.

“I think what we saw in the case of Donald Sterling was blatant racist behavior aimed at a select group of people. While it is difficult to know what is in someone’s heart or mind, we have heard those words. … In the case of Robert Sarver, I would say, first of all, we look at the totality of circumstances over an 18-year period that he’s owned those teams, and ultimately we made a judgment – I made a judgment – that under the Again, while unjustifiable in the circumstances in which he used that language and behavior, it is not strong enough.

“It’s outrageous in every way to use language and behave like that, but that it was very different than what we saw in this previous case.”

At no point during the investigation did Silver discuss the prospect of Sarver voluntarily agreeing to the sale of the Suns.

“Robert Sarver and I spoke several times along the way, and I allowed the investigation to unfold,” Silver said. “We didn’t anticipate it.”

Silver also went on to say that Sarver “took complete responsibility and seemed utterly remorseful.”

“Every day is a new day. It’s not like we closed the book,” Silver said. “We have closed the book on these historical events. But I don’t think he’s being scrutinized for his behavior and speech.”

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34593189/nba-commissioner-adam-silver-says-right-take-away-phoenix-suns-owner-robert-sarver NBA commissioner Adam Silver says ‘I don’t have the right to take away’ Phoenix Suns from owner Robert Sarver

Emma Bowman

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