Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns, issued a stern denial of accusations that are expected to be made against him in an upcoming ESPN story.
Jordan Schultz, an NBA podcast host, tweeted Friday that the NBA is preparing for a story that would accuse “Sarver of racism, sexism and sexual harassment in a series of incidents.”
Sarver and the Suns responded to Schultz’s tweet with a flurry of statements.
The 59-year-old Sarver, who has owned the Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury since 2004, expressed he was “wholly shocked” by the allegations expected to be brought by ESPN. He went on to call some of the claims “completely repugnant to my nature and the character of the Suns/Mercury workplace” and that they “never, ever happened”
“I don’t begin to know how to prove that something DIDN’T happen, and it is difficult to erase or forget ugly accusations once they are made,” Sarver said in a statement “Even hints of racism or sexism in our culture today are toxic and damaging and should not be lightly raised. I categorically deny any and all suggestions that I used disparaging language related to race or gender. I would like to think that my actions and public record regarding race, gender, or discrimination of any kind, over a lifetime in business and community service, will adequately answer any questions anyone might raise about my commitment to equality and fairness.”
Phoenix radio host John Gambadoro tweeted that more than 50 people were interviewed for the ESPN story. It was supposed to run at the end of the regular season and ESPN senior NBA writer Baxter Holmes was involved. It is unclear what other reporters, if any, are also working on the piece.
The accusations could bring disciplinary action from the NBA, and if the evidence is strong enough, could potentially lead to a rare occasion in which the league would forcibly remove Sarver as owner.
Jason Rowley, the Suns’ team president and CEO, stood by Sarver and backed up the organization’s claims in statement, saying the unpublished ESPN story contained “false narratives.”
“This story is completely outrageous and false,” Rowley said. “It doesn’t represent — at all — the Robert Sarver I’ve worked alongside of for 15 years. He’s not a racist and he’s not a sexist. I will also say that reporter in this instance has shown a reckless disregard for the truth. He has harassed employees, former employees, and family members; used truths, half-truths and rumors to manufacture a story in which he’s heavily invested and then perpetuate a completely false narrative within the sports industry to back it up.”
Suns general manager James Jones, who is black, added that “none of what’s being said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like.”
In another statement, the organization stated that it has documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts that will “directly contradict” ESPN’s accusations. The Suns are already preparing responses to the reporter’s question and ask people no to “rush to judgement.”
“We understand that an outlet is considering publishing a proposed story that makes completely baseless claims against the Suns organization concerning a variety of topics,” the team wrote in a statement. “Documentary evidence in our possession and eyewitness accounts directly contradict the reporter’s accusations, and we are preparing our response to his questions. We urge everyone not to rush to judgment here. Especially based on lies, innuendo, and a false narrative to attack our organization and its leadership.”
Sarver, who bought the Suns for a then-record $401 million, made his money in real estate as the executive director of Southwest Value Partners.
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