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Suns vice chairman calls for Robert Sarver to resign in open letter to employees, players

Sarver was suspended by the NBA for one year and fined $10 million following a nearly year-long investigation into accusations of racism and sexism.

PHOENIX — Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns Jahm Najafi called for the resignation of owner Robert Sarver in an open letter to employees and players Thursday saying there should be "zero tolerance" for these actions.

"Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver," Najafi said in the letter.

Sarver was suspended by the NBA for one year and fined $10 million on Tuesday following a nearly year-long investigation into accusations of racism and sexism as the team's owner.

The NBA report accused Sarver of the following types of behavior:

  • Referencing engaging in a specific sexual act at an all-employee meeting
  • Describing using a certain type of condom at another all-employee meeting
  • Telling a story about how he learned what a "b*** job" was when he was a child at a business meeting
  • Telling a female employee she's "never seen anything this big" in reference to his own genitalia
  • Sending pornographic material and crude emails to a small number of male Suns leaders
  • Making crude references to sex or sexual anatomy on 20 other occasions in workplace settings 
  • Loudly stating racial slurs after a 2016 game between the Suns and the Golden State Warriors 

The suspension and full report from the independent investigation has made national headlines since the news broke with many current and former NBA players speaking out against Sarver's actions.

Earlier on Thursday, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and four members of the city council issued a statement saying they were "appalled" by the actions outlined in the NBA's independent report into Sarver.

"The actions outlined in this report do not represent the values of this city," the statement reads. "We call on the NBA to take all actions required to ensure this behavior is stopped and to reform the culture that allowed these actions to occur," the statement said.

Gallego also asked city staff to find out whether Phoenix should take action in response to the troubling report on Robert Sarver's conduct.

Read Najafi's full statement below:

An open letter to the employees and players of the Phoenix Suns:

Due to the NBA’s investigation and findings, I have no choice but to speak up on behalf of the hundreds of you who have been impacted by your interactions with Robert Sarver and the resulting investigation of his conduct. I first and foremost want to give my deepest thanks to all of you who garnered the courage to share your experiences, as difficult as it may have been, to help piece together a clearer picture of what work life must have been like for you over these past 18 years.

There should be zero tolerance for discriminatory actions of any level, in any setting, let alone a professional one. There is no question that the findings determined that Mr. Sarver’s lewd, misogynist, and racist conduct had a substantial negative impact on you and has no place in our society. The report confirmed by multiple eyewitnesses that Robert Sarver used the “N-word” at least five times. The report confirmed Sarver engaged in conduct demeaning of female and pregnant employees. The report confirmed Sarver made crude and sexually inappropriate comments in professional settings. The report confirmed Sarver made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women and made inappropriate workplace physical conduct toward male employees.

WORDS AND ACTIONS MATTER.

Similar conduct by any CEO, executive director, president, teacher, coach, or any other position of leadership would warrant immediate termination. The fact that Robert Sarver “owns” the team does not give him a license to treat others differently than any other leader. The fact that anyone would find him fit to lead because of this “ownership” position is forgetting that NBA teams belong to the communities they serve. Team investors are merely temporary stewards. If we, as sports leaders, are not held to the same standards then how can we expect a functional society with integrity and respect on any level? We owe it to you: employees, players, partners, and your families to provide the same positive workplace environment we would require of any other business.

I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans to think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege. Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver. While I have no interest in becoming the managing partner, I will work tirelessly to ensure the next team steward treats all stakeholders with dignity, professionalism and respect."

   

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