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Will Robert Sarver Go the Way of Donald Sterling?

Liam McKeone
Suns owner Robert Sarver
Suns owner Robert Sarver / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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Today, ESPN's Baxter Holmes published an in-depth investigative report on Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver. The article details a culture of racism of misogny that has defined Sarver's 17-year tenure as owner of the team and Holmes interviewed 70 current and former Suns employees to put it all together.

We knew it was coming since Sarver's lawyers released statements denying the allegations earlier this year ahead of the publishing date. Sarver strongly refuted nearly all of the claims made by his current and former employees, as can be seen in the article itself. Those claims are awful. Here are some of the excerpts from the piece:

After the loss, Suns majority owner Robert Sarver entered the coaches locker room, Watson told ESPN.

"You know, why does Draymond Green get to run up the court and say [N-word]," Sarver, who is white, allegedly said, repeating the N-word several times in a row.

"You can't say that," Watson, who is Black and Hispanic, told Sarver.

This is not the only instance recounted by the story in which Sarver used such racist language.

At least a half-dozen Suns staffers recounted to ESPN instances of Sarver hearing a story from a Black player and then using the same language when retelling it, down to the usage of the N-word.

Sarver once used the N-word when trying to explain to a staffer why he preferred hiring Lindsey Hunter over Dan Majerle as head coach in 2013, according to a high-level executive who heard the remark. Hunter was a first-year Suns player development coordinator while Majerle was in his fifth year as a Suns associate head coach.

"These [N-words] need a [N-word]," Sarver told the staffer of his largely Black team, according to the executive.

The article is filled with such anecdotes and other stories about Sarver's misognystic attitude, which included him talking about his wife sexually in the work place. (We also saw signs of this when he spoke at a memorial service / "roast" of a minority owner in leaked video.) The trickle-down effect led to a work environment where women felt like they were less than people, and everyone is afraid of going to HR because of the backlash that would result. Sarver and others in the organization have denied these claims.

The question now stands: Will Sarver end up like Donald Sterling? Sterling was banned from the NBA for life by Adam Silver after court records and audio revealed Sterling's usage of racist language. It nearly resulted in a walkout by Los Angeles Clippers players during the playoffs. Silver now faces another decision.

If the NBA does decide to rip the Suns away from Sarver by force after the report, it probably won't happen as quickly as with Sterling, who was banned four days after evidence of his actions surfaced. But something will happen. The next step is likely the league opening its own investigation into the allegations. What they find will set the tone for how everything will proceed.

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