Suns employee resigns, alleging retaliation after reporting misogyny and toxic culture

·Writer
·3 min read

A Phoenix Suns senior employee resigned last month after she alleged that she was the target of bullying and retaliation by her superiors after she raised concerns about gender equity and misconduct, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.

The woman in question started working for the Suns in 2007, and had been the team’s senior premium experience manager for more than eight years before she resigned nearly a month ago. In her resignation letter, which she emailed to 16 members of the team’s ownership group, she challenged them to address the team’s toxic and misogynistic workplace culture — which is what is currently under investigation by the league.

The former employee did not specifically address any issues she had with majority owner Robert Sarver, who is the key subject of the league’s investigation, nor did she name any employees specifically.

She did, though, provide a specific list of complaints and allegations. Among them, she said there were "inherent conflicts of interest with managers' ability to receive commissions, cherry pick deals, revise suite lease terms to line their own pockets, and operate in a different manner than the rest of the sales organization with no true consistent systems or oversight," according to ESPN. She also called out what she saw as a “lack of follow-up” and failure to resolve conflicts or show “true concern for employee well being.”

She also said she was the only mother on her team, and that it had been that way for more than a decade, which she thought was suspicious. She also alleged that a male colleague was paid more than her and was allowed to work remotely.

"As a working mother, when I requested the same flexibility, I was denied," she wrote, via ESPN. "I have observed these kinds of inequities throughout the Suns organization, and I have personally experienced the kind of gender-based misconduct described in recent media reports. And when I attempted to share my concerns with HR and leadership (including individuals at the highest level), I was dismissed - and once was even told to 'take a cold shower.'"

She also said that there has been a “consistent retaliation and bullying” since she first complained, and that she was excluded from client dinners and been micromanaged ever since.

“My job has grown more intolerable and toxic than ever,” she wrote, via ESPN.

The Suns did not deny her allegations, but said they have started an investigation.

"We have been made aware of allegations by a former employee and are investigating them, consistent with our Respect in the Workplace Policy," the Suns Legacy Partners organization said in a statement to ESPN. "The Phoenix Suns are committed to creating a safe, respectful, and inclusive work environment free of discrimination and harassment, and we do not tolerate retaliation for the reporting of alleged misconduct."

The Suns have been under investigation after an ESPN report detailed several allegations of racism, misogyny and other misconduct within the organization, largely at the hands of Sarver. Among other things, Sarver was accused of using the N-word, discussing sexually explicit activities or topics in the office, going on verbal rants, interfering in on-court affairs and more. He also allegedly ordered players to “take out” Vince Carter during a game, and his wife allegedly sent former Suns employees threatening or intimidating messages after the allegations were first made public.

Sarver denied all of the allegations against him well before the ESPN story had even been published. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this month that the investigation is “getting close to the end,” though there is still no specific timetable.

The Phoenix Suns' arena
The Suns are still under investigation after allegations were made against owner Robert Sarver last year. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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