Robert Sarver was suspended from the NBA and WNBA — and his Phoenix Suns and Mercury — for one year and fined $10 million for creating a hostile work environment in the Suns’ offices that has gone on for more than 18 years.
That’s not punishment enough, not to send a message that changes behavior — and it’s not enough for some current and former Suns’ employees, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN (Holmes was the one who broke the original story on Sarver the Suns’ work culture nearly a year ago).
Baxter Holmes joins NBA Today with reporting on Robert Sarver. One current employee told @Baxter today: “I cannot express to you how mad and disappointed people are at the spineless nature of the NBA’s decision.” pic.twitter.com/dRDxl9Egqv
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) September 13, 2022
“It’s barely a slap on the wrist and shows us the league truly doesn’t stand for diversity, equity or inclusion. I’m grateful to have the validation after being told I was insane, a bitch, and being dramatic. That definitely lets me breathe a little. But I’m angry. The league failed us when they had the opportunity to stand behind its values.”
Sarver, who is worth an estimated $800 million, will shrug off the $10 million fine. The one-year suspension will bother him — Sarver said he disagreed with some of the findings of the NBA report — but he said he would accept responsibility for his actions. More realistically, he knows he got off light and will keep his head down hoping that this will eventually just disappear.
For brave employees who risked their jobs to come forward to Holmes and eventually the law firm investigating Sarver, knowing that nothing will have changed in a year has to be devastating. The league and Suns will point to changes in the Suns’ organization and structure, to new rules in place, but that same NBA report chronicled misdeeds from Sarver in 2021 — after a lot of changes were already in place.
It’s not shocking those employees are frustrated with the league.
If there is pressure from players – specifically Chris Paul and Suns’ players — and, more importantly, if there is pressure from team and league sponsors, this conversation might not be over. However, it’s not a coincidence the NBA dropped this report in the deadest part of the NBA schedule, weeks before even training camps open. The league just hopes this goes away.
Which is another in a line of disappointments for Suns employees.