PHOENIX — Editor's note: The above video aired during a previous broadcast.
ESPN has finally released an exclusive report filled with allegations of racism and misogyny from Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver.
The lengthy article contains numerous examples of alleged incidents involving a toxic and sometimes hostile workplace. According to the article, ESPN spoke to more than 70 current and former Suns employees during Sarver's 17-year tenure as owner.
In the report written by ESPN staff writer Baxter Holmes, several anecdotes from multiple sources detail various encounters and instances of racist and misogynistic behavior from Sarver.
Here are a few of the instances included in the report:
- Former Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson alleges Sarver used the N-word multiple times after a game against the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
- Some employees said they encountered conduct they felt was inappropriate. One such instance included Sarver allegedly passing around a picture of his wife in a bikini to employees and talking about sex acts she performed.
- During a recruiting pitch, sources said Sarver made a comment they felt was racially insensitive. They didn't go into specifics but said they felt Sarver "too loosely used the term "Black guy" during the conversation."
To read the full report, visit the article on the ESPN website.
See Monty Williams address the situation
"It's a lot to process," head coach Monty Williams said before Thursday's game against the Houston Rockets. "For me, it's still not clear as far as the facts are considered. I find all of these things being said to be very serious in nature."
Sarver previously pushed back against the report from ESPN. Late Friday afternoon, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski shared the news via Twitter that the NBA is launching an investigation into the Suns and Sarver.
Vice Chairman Andy Kohlberg released a statement Friday morning.
Jahm Najafi, the Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, issued the following statement Thursday morning after the report was released:
"I have been made aware of the allegations against Robert Sarver, the managing partner who runs the Phoenix Suns. The conduct he is alleged to have committed has stunned and saddened me and is unacceptable. The well-being and safety of every Suns employee, player, coach and stakeholder is first and foremost our priority. My sincerest sympathy goes out to all whose lives and professions have been impacted. I am personally committed to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism, and bias, which is unacceptable anywhere in our society. I have partnered with the NBA Foundation to underscore this commitment. The Phoenix Suns is a national treasure that belongs to all of us as fans and residents of our community. Team investors are simply temporary stewards of this treasure. It is our job as stewards to ensure everyone is treated respectfully and equally. Although today’s revelations fall under the jurisdiction of the League which decides and takes any action based on its finding, I offer my support to ensure there is full accountability."
Along with Najafi, Jason Rowley, President & CEO on behalf of Suns Legacy Partners, LLC, issued a statement of his own concerning Friday's report. Here's an excerpt from the statement:
"The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury organization vehemently reject the claims made in today’s ESPN article. Our two organizations have always worked hard to create an environment that is respectful and diverse; where racism, sexism and damaging behavior of any kind are not condoned.
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. He twisted statements and circumstances to fit his preconceived narrative. He broke every rule of journalism by first deciding on his findings and then cherry-picking events and unreliable sources to prop up his demonstrably false claims."
Sarver also issued a statement Friday afternoon. Here's the text from his response to the report:
“I continue to be shocked by the false reporting from Baxter Holmes. While there is so much that is inaccurate and misleading in this story that I hardly know where to begin, let me be clear: The n-word is not part of my vocabulary. I have never called anyone or any group of people the n-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by that word, either verbally or in writing. I don’t use that word. It is abhorrent and ugly and denigrating and against everything I believe in. The way I lead my personal and professional life makes that clear. Instead of reporting the truth, Holmes’ story is based on misrepresentations from former Suns coach Earl Watson and other unnamed “sources.” Mr. Watson created an unprofessional and toxic atmosphere in our organization. He is clearly not a credible source. Despite hearing from witness after witness that disputed Mr. Watson’s stories, Mr. Holmes completely disregarded the truth here. Now we are in the position of trying to disprove things that did not happen.
At this point, I would entirely welcome an impartial NBA investigation which may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I’m so very proud.”
After tonight's 123-111 win over the Houston Rockets, we heard from two of the Suns' top players, Devin Booker and Chris Paul, for the first time since the story was released.
"I think for us, it’s about controlling what we can control," Paul responded when asked for his reaction. "You know what I mean? And that’s hooping, that’s basketball. That’s what we did today and that’s what we’re going to continue to do."
Booker was asked about former head coach Earl Watson's allegations, and if he had heard or remembered anything from when Watson was his head coach.
"No, I did not. I wasn’t aware of the situation," Booker said. "In my 7 years that I’ve been here, I haven’t noticed that, but that doesn’t make me insensitive to the subject. I think the NBA open investigation and they’re going to do their due diligence of bringing out facts instead of he said, she said and I’m sure the NBA has it in good hands and will do the proper research to find out the truth."
Both Booker and Paul also talked about how strong and together this Suns team is.
"I’d just like to say, we’ve got a solid team, like a solid team," Paul said. "A great group of guys. We communicate, like I said, we control what we can control. We went out there and played, hooped. We understand we play for one another, we understand (the) big picture and I think that’s what guys in our locker room are focused on right now."
"I think we have a close-knit team that sticks together and we obviously have conversations but like Chris said, we still had to show up to shoot around today and we still had to play a game, so, we’re focused on basketball and I think things will get handled how they’re supposed to."
You can hear from Booker, Paul and head coach Monty Williams in tweets below or by clicking here.
We will continue to update this story as more information is released.
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