The Phoenix Suns soon to be sold by their owner Robert Sarver

The unexpected decision of Robert Sarver to begin the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Mercury – his WNBA franchise -, announced on Wednesday, must have relieved many people. Employees of the two franchises first. Those who had denounced the racist and misogynistic remarks of their boss, often bordering on harassment. “You can move forward without the pain and anxiety associated with your leadership”told one of them to ESPN, the media that revealed the accusations almost a year ago.

Players also: “Proud to belong to a League dedicated to progress”has tweeted LeBron James minutes after the announcement. Suns star Chris Paul had expressed his unease when the NBA released a report last week confirming ESPN’s allegations.

But it is perhaps in the offices of the NBA and in the HQs of other franchises that we breathe best. Adam Silver, praised so far for his work as “commissioner”, saw the criticism fall when the League communicated its sanction after the report: a year of suspension and a ten million dollar fine. Explain that an owner “has special rights” compared to an employee did nothing to help the crisis. On Wednesday, he contented himself with a press release in two sentences: “I fully support Robert Sarver’s decision. It is the right choice for the organization and the community”

“I thought the one-year suspension would give me time to mend my ways but in the current unforgiving climate it became clear that was impossible.

Tuesday in his podcast, Draymond Green, unhappy with the initial sanction, had invited the other owners to vote to exclude Sarver, as for Donald Sterling forced to sell the Clippers in 2014 in comparable circumstances. They won’t have to. Sarver took a thorn out of their feet.

The press release from the future ex-owner of the Suns hides his frustration and a certain resentment badly. “I thought the one-year suspension would give me time to mend my ways. […] but in the current unforgiving climate it became clear that this was impossible, that all the good that I have done or could have continued to do was outweighed by the things I have said in the past”wrote the one who presents himself as a man of faith.

Born in Arizona, Sarver grew up there, went to college and built the family fortune. The investor bought the Suns and the Mercury in 2004. In recent years, he has placed two black men at the head of his organization, coach Monty Williams and GM James Jones. Two men who in 2021 carried the franchise to its first NBA Finals since 1993. In 2010, he also publicly opposed a bill targeting Hispanics in the state. So he regrets that his words “eclipse two decades of building organizations that have brought the Phoenix area together and made it stronger”.

Reverend Al Sharpton, a figure of civil rights, wants to see the end of an era, that of the “club of old racist owners who treat black players as their property”. 75% of NBA basketball players are African American. The majority of owners are white billionaires. At 60, Sarver will soon leave the club. His franchise purchased for $400 million would be worth four and a half times as much today.


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