The Phoenix Suns strongly pushed back on a rumor team owner Robert Sarver will be accused of “racism, sexism and sexual harassment” in an upcoming story.
Sports reporter Jordan Schultz floated the rumor on Friday the NBA was preparing for the allegations against Sarver without going into too much detail. In a tweet, Schultz wrote “the NBA is preparing for a massive story accusing #Suns owner Robert Sarver of racism, sexism and sexual harassment in a series of incidents, sources say. With enough evidence to support such claims, there’s a real chance the league would forcibly remove Sarver.”
He explained further on Arizona Sports’ “Burns & Gambo.”
“This report is a monster. As bad as you might think it might be for us to be having this conversation, it’s worse. What I was told some of the things that are going to surface in this report, including sexual harassment, it is jaw-dropping. There’s just no way that with all of these people on the record, men and women, that he’s going to be able to survive this in my eyes,” he told the radio show.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – OCTOBER 08: Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver walks on the court to congratulate players after the team defeated the Las Vegas Aces 87-84 in Game Five of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs semifinals to win the series at Michelob ULTRA Arena on October 8, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
“What I was told was that there has been a kind of sweep under the rug culture that he has fostered.”
The Suns revealed in a statement that ESPN was going to report the allegations.
“We understand that ESPN is considering publishing a proposed story that makes completely baseless claims against the Suns Legacy Partners, LLC organization concerning a variety of topics,” the team said. “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.”
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 30: Owner Robert Sarver stands with the Western Conference Championship trophy after the Suns beat the LA Clippers to win the series in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center on June 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The Suns beat the Clippers to advance to the NBA Finals. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Sarver also pushed back with a three-paragraph statement.
“I am wholly shocked by some of the allegations purported by ESPN about me, personally, or about the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations. While I can’t begin to know how to respond to some of the vague suggestions made by mostly anonymous voices, I can certainly tell you that some of the claims I find completely repugnant to my nature and to the character of the Suns/Mercury workplace and I can tell you they never, ever happened,” Sarver said.
“First and foremost, I reject any insinuation of personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination. I despise language that disrespects any individuals, regardless of race, gender, preference, or choice. Such language has no place in business or at home in what I consider Suns and Mercury families. I am proud of our record of diversity and inclusion on both teams – whether on the court or in the front office.
PHOENIX, AZ – JANUARY 23: Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver (R) and wife Penny during the NBA game against the Houston Rockets at US Airways Center on January 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Rockets defeated the Suns 113-111. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
“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. 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.”
Suns general manager James Jones and CEO Jason Rowley both backed Sarver. Jones said the rumors didn’t describe what he knows about Sarver and Rowley said Sarver was not a racist or 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. His tactics throughout this process have been without any basis in journalism ethics or even morality,” Rowley added.
It’s unclear when the bombshell report is supposed to drop. Sarver bought the team in 2004.