Robert Sarver is bowing out.
The majority owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury is “seeking buyers” for the two franchises a week after he was suspended for one year from any activities involving both teams and fined $10 million for ”workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies” found during an NBA investigation.
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness,” Sarver said in a statement Wednesday. “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 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. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement in reaction to Sarver’s decision to sell the Suns and Mercury.
“I fully support the decision by Robert Sarver to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Silver said. “This is the right next step for the organization and community.”
Suns Legacy Partners, LLC, are in agreement with Sarver’s decision.
“We are on a journey that began before last November, one that has included changes to leadership, staff and accountability measures. While we are proud of our progress and the culture of respect and integrity we are building, we know there remains work to do and relationships to rebuild. We are committed to doing so for our staff, players, fans, partners and this community.”
An ESPN report on Nov. 4 sparked what proved to be a 10-month investigation into allegations Sarver created a “toxic” work environment.
The results of the investigation show the 60-year-old Sarver used the N-word multiple times and made inappropriate comments toward women.
“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball,” Sarver said in the statement.
Sarver’s punishment wasn’t well received on multiple levels.
LeBron James, Draymond Green and Suns All-Star Chris Paul expressed their displeasure on social media with just a suspension and hefty fine.
Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi called for Sarver to resign his position as team owner.
Rev. Al Sharpton wrote in a statement the punishment wasn’t enough and that Sarver needed to go.
PayPal announced in a statement it wouldn’t renew its sponsorship with the Suns next season if Sarver remained involved with the team after the 2022-23 season.
Now Sarver has decided to sell both teams.
“For the better part of the last year, I have refused to allow Robert Sarver’s despicable behavior to be swept under the rug,” said Sharpton in a statement Wednesday. “The racist old boys’ club in professional sports is officially closed. A new era is upon us where it is intolerable to view Black players like property. Sarver’s decision today is the first step in the long road toward justice for the Suns and Mercury – the staff, the players, and the fans. It is now imperative that the NBA, both teams, the corporate sponsors, and the new owner, whomever they may be, follow through on the commitment to root out racism, misogyny, and hate.”
Sharpton called for PayPal to part ways with Sarver last month. The civil rights leader continues to challenge the NBA on how to handle situations of this nature in the future.
“The NBA’s actions over the last week also make it apparent that the league must also do some soul searching,” Sharpton continued in the statement. “I am ready to renew our partnership with the league to advance justice throughout professional basketball, the sports world at large, and our nation.”
The NBA must approve the new majority owner after doing background checks and its due diligence. When considering the findings of the investigation, expect perhaps an even deeper and more thorough background check on the potential new owner.
Based on his statement, Sarver appears to have the power to choose who he wants to sell the Suns to as he owns about 35% of the franchise, but the NBA has a list of potential owners and ownership groups as well.
Sarver bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million.
The franchise is now worth more than $1 billion. Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion after Donald Sterling was banned for life for his racist remarks in 2014.
“I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone,” Sarver said.
“In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways,” Sarver concluded in the statement. “Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together.”
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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