The Phoenix Suns have named vice chairman and minority owner Sam Garvin the team's interim governor for majority owner Robert Sarver's one-year suspension by the NBA, according to ESPN's Baxter Holmes.
The NBA on Tuesday announced Sarver's yearlong suspension, along with a $10 million fine, following an independent investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct. The law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz publicly released a 43-page report if its findings after conducting 320 interviews and reviewing more than 80,000 "documents and other materials, including emails, text messages and videos."
In its own words, the report identified the following key findings:
Sarver said the N-word at least five times in repeating or purporting to repeat what a Black person said — four of those after being told by Black and white subordinates that he should not use the word, even in repetition of another.
Sarver used language and engaged in conduct demeaning of female employees. Among other examples, he told a pregnant employee that she would be unable to do her job upon becoming a mother; berated a female employee in front of others and then commented that women cry too much; and arranged an all-female lunch so that female employees at Western Alliance Bank, where at the time he was CEO, could explain to female Suns employees how to handle his demands.
Sarver commented and made jokes frequently to employees in large and small settings about sex and sex-related anatomy, including by making crude or otherwise inappropriate comments about the physical appearance and bodies of female employees and other women. On four occasions, Sarver engaged in workplace-inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees.
Over 50 current and former employees reported that Sarver frequently engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees — including by yelling and cursing at them — that on occasion constituted bullying under workplace standards.
The league launched the investigation into Sarver following a November 2021 article published by Holmes, whose interviews with more than 70 current and former Suns employees exposed a hostile workplace. The investigation confirmed extensive allegations of "racially insensitive language" and "misogynistic" behavior.
Garvin was one of more than a dozen members of the ownership group for the Suns and Phoenix Mercury who put their names to a statement in defense of Sarver following ESPN's exposé.
"To a person, we dispute the characterization of Mr. Sarver and the organization as racist and sexist," the statement, which still resides on the team's website, reads. "We support Mr. Sarver’s leadership and stand with him. To that end, we join Mr. Sarver in welcoming Commissioner Silver’s investigation of the allegations presented by ESPN, and will fully cooperate in the investigation and any suggestions the league may have. It is our sincere belief that this inquiry will demonstrate that our organization and Mr. Sarver are faithful stewards of our employees, our franchise, our fans and the game."
Sarver "cooperated fully with the investigative process," according to the NBA, but he was "unaccepting" of his suspension and fine during a "largely acrimonious" punitive process, Holmes and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. Investigators requested interviews with 124 people who "either failed to respond or affirmatively declined," the report said. It is unclear if Garvin cooperated with the league's investigation.
The NBA drew widespread criticism for endorsing an investigation that made "no finding that Sarver's conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus," despite the report's evidence to the contrary.
LeBron James was most vocal among NBA players, tweeting on Wednesday, "Our league definitely got this wrong. ... There is no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and deeply respect our leadership. But this isn't right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place."
Likewise, Suns veteran Chris Paul, who also served as president of the National Basketball Players Association for eight years, tweeted, "I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected."
"Mr. Sarver's reported actions and conduct are horrible and have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter," NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement to Andscape's Marc J. Spears. She added, "I have made my position known to Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again."
Garvin has served as the Suns' alternate governor under Sarver since July 2007.
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