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Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver accused of racism, misogyny

(David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver is said to have used racist and misogynistic language in front of Suns employees while fostering a “toxic and sometimes hostile workplace” during his 17-year tenure.

The report comes from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and relies on testimony from more than 70 current and former Suns employees. Included among them are former Suns executives as well as a current co-owner.

The offenses vary, including the use of racially insensitive language, discussion of sexually explicit activities in the offices, directing verbal tirades at coaches and meddling in the team’s on-court performance.

Additionally, Sarver has been said to have been misogynistic toward employees. “Women have very little value,” one female former staffer told Holmes. “Women are possessions. And I think we’re nowhere close to where he thinks men are.”

Two employees also said Sarver tried to oust a pregnant employee during the 2008-09 season because she would be “breastfeeding and would need to be at home with her newborn.” Those employees later rebuked Sarver alongside other members of Suns management due to the fact that they believed firing her would violate employment and discrimination laws.

Despite the accusations, multiple current and former Suns employees defend Sarver, including Suns GM James Jones, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and several Mercury executives.

As a result of the allegations, the NBA has tabbed Wachtell Lichton law firm to open up an investigation into Sarver and the allegations that have been made.

Following the publishing of the story, Suns President and CEO Jason Rowley and Sarver each released a statement, rejecting the claims made in the article.

“Today’s story contains false information and narratives perpetuated by a reporter who has struggled unsuccessfully to match the facts to a story he decided he wanted to tell a year ago,” Rowley said, adding that the Suns have “retained defamation counsel.”

In his statement, Sarver explicitly denied using the n-word.

“The n-word is not part of my vocabulary,” he said. “It is abhorrent and ugly and denigrating and against everything I believe in.

“Instead of reporting the truth, Holmes’ story is based on misrepresentations.”