Don’t let Robert Sarver paint himself as a victim in selling Suns, Mercury while the people he hurt get nothing
A 7,200-word, deeply reported news story by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.
A 10-month investigation by a law firm that produced 42 pages of findings.
Over 100 people heard or saw behavior that was patently in violation of workplace standards, and often, did actual mental, emotional or physical harm to employees.
He will likely pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming months.
And yet Robert Sarver wants you to believe he is the victim.
Yes, it is Robert Sarver and Robert Sarver alone who is wronged in all of this. This poor, poor man who is suffering the consequences of his own misdeeds.
How dare we hold this man accountable.
How dare we expect that the wealthy man be exposed after he ran around for almost two decades being a sexist bully with a fondness for “repeating” (use your sarcastic quote fingers, it’s way more effective) the N-word. It all came to light thanks to a damn good reporter and a highly compensated law office that conducted hundreds of interviews with people who worked in the offices he terrorized.
In a statement Wednesday announcing he is “beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury,” the NBA and WNBA teams he owns, Sarver made sure to include this:
“I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.
“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that is no longer possible — that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past.”
The current unforgiving climate, he says.
It is you who should be asking for forgiveness, Robert.
From the underlings you were reported to have screamed and cursed at; from those who had to sit in business meetings and hear you talk about your wife performing oral sex on you; From the team physician who, in the course of a routine fitness check, allegedly had to endure you completely, uncessarily drop your underwear and dangle your penis in his face; from the then-pregnant employee you reportedly threatened to strip of her work assignment because of that pregnancy; from the employees whose sexuality you questioned, per the report.
It is you who should be asking for forgiveness for reportedly wondering aloud about players’ genitalia, and for repeatedly using the N-word, the most vile, degrading word in American English, even over protestations of white and Black observers who told you it was not a word for you to use. And that’s whether you were allegedly just repeating something you’d overheard or not.
(In another column, maybe, we’ll try to figure out why Sarver apparently had such a burning desire to say that particular word and didn’t want to accept that it is off-limits, but for today, we’ll keep focused on the statement at hand.)
It is not the “current climate” that led to you being in a position to sell these teams. It is your lack of basic human decency.
You are in this position because we found out about the aforementioned dirty deeds and more and were appropriately appalled, both at Sarver’s behavior and then at the middling punishment he received from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who had previously established that team owners could be stripped of Their team for acting in a similar fashion.
To be clear, it’s not the public outrage that led to this. It was more likely at least one team sponsor publicly pulling its money and multiple players speaking up about the slap on the wrist Silver gave Sarver.
And let’s not gloss over that Sarver’s statement also focuses only on his choice of words, which is a fallacy on two levels: First, words matter, and he has a fondness for weaponizing them; And secondly, the NBA-instigated investigation into Sarver doesn’t just include verbal abuse but unwanted physical contact, as well.
We’ve seen this time and time again in recent years from people, usually men, who are shown to be tyrants, abusers or sexual harassers, or some combination of the three. And their reaction is to paint themselves as the victim, not those they affected.
The real shame in all of this isn’t Robert Sarver’s lack of shame, it’s that he’ll walk away from this with a tidy profit to further enrich his already bloated bank account, and the men and women are victimized for years get nothing.
Nothing but a statement in which their former boss had the audacity to paint himself as the aggrieved party.