Mercury owner suspended one year, fined $10M for workplace misconduct

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Phoenix Mercury and Suns owner Robert Sarver has been suspended by the NBA for one year. The league also has fined him $10 million for engaging in “workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies.”

The NBA had been investigating Sarver following allegations of racism and misogyny, first reported by ESPN in November 2021.

The investigation found that Sarver engaged in “crude, sexual and vulgar commentary and conduct in the workplace. The law firm that conducted the investigation on behalf of the league also said Sarver “acted aggressively” and displayed a “sophomoric and inappropriate” sense of humor around the workplace.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert called the actions taken in response to the investigation “appropriate and necessary.”

Per the terms of the suspension, Sarver cannot be present at any WNBA or NBA team facility. He also cannot participate in WNBA or NBA events or activities, including games, practices and business activities.

He also cannot represent the Mercury or Suns in any public or private capacity, nor can he have any involvement with the business or basketball operations of either team.

The $10 million fine will be donated “to organizations that are committed to addressing race and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace,” per the NBA.

“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “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.”

Sarver also will be required to undergo training “focused on respect and appropriate conduct in the workplace.”

The Mercury and Suns must improve workplace practices, a process that will include retaining outside firms to “focus on fostering a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace.”

As part of the initiative, employees will be surveyed anonymously to ensure an appropriate workplace culture. Any instances or allegations of misconduct within the Mercury organization will be reported to the WNBA.

These conditions must remain in place for three years.

“Regardless of position, power or intent, we all need to recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior,” Silver said. “On behalf of the entire NBA, I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report. We must do better.”

In a statement, the Mercury said that they are committed “to creating a safe, respectful and inclusive work environment.”

“At the direction of senior leadership, we have strengthened our culture and focused on creating a workplace where everyone feels included and valued,” the team said. “We nevertheless take seriously the NBA’s findings and will implement the workplace improvements the NBA has identified, to the extent that we have not yet done so.”

Sarver also addressed the results of the investigation, saying in a statement that “good leadership requires accountability.”

“While I disagree with some of the particulars of the NBA’s report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees,” he said in a statement. “I take full responsibility for what I have done.

“I accept the consequences of the NBA’s decision. This moment is an opportunity for me to demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow as we continue to build a working culture where every employee feels comfortable and valued.”