Phoenix Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver cheers the Suns during the game against the Dallas Mavericks on November 1, 2005, in Phoenix. The NBA suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10 million on Tuesday. File Photo by Will Powers/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The National Basketball Association said Tuesday it has suspended Robert Sarver, the managing partner of the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury, and fined him $10 million after conducting an independent investigation into racist and sexist conduct.
The investigation came after an ESPN article last year highlighted workplace abuses. The ESPN report, posted in November, included interviews with 70 former and current Suns employees who said Sarver created a "toxic and sometimes hostile workplace" over his 17 years owning the team and included charges of racism and sexism.
That led the NBA to conduct its own investigation, during which it interviewed 320 individuals connected with the team and evaluated 80,000 documents that included emails, text messages and videos.
"Based on the findings of the independent investigation, including those related to Mr. Sarver's workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies, the NBA today has taken the following actions: Mr. Sarver is suspended from the Suns/Mercury organization for a period of one year."
During that time, Sarver will not be allowed at any NBA or WNBA team facility, attend or participate in any NBA or WNBA event or activity, represent the Suns or Mercury in any public or private capacity, or have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of the Suns or Mercury, and have any involvement in the business, governance, or activities of either the NBA or WNBA.
The report found incidents of bullying, Sarver using the N-word in the organization and "inequitable conduct" related to female employees, but "the investigation made no finding that Mr. Sarver's workplace misconduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus."
Sarver, a successful Arizona real estate investor and co-founder of Southwest Value Partners, was also fined $10 million by the league. The NBA said the entire organization must go through a series of requirements for workplace improvements monitored by the NBA.
"The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
"We believe the outcome is the right one, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to upholding proper standards in NBA workplaces."