Suns minority owner calls for Robert Sarver to resign after NBA report on workplace misconduct

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Several NBA figures of note, including LeBron James and Chris Paul, have called for Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver to be ejected from the league after an investigation found a rampant pattern of workplace misconduct.

That group now has a new ally: the owner of the second-biggest stake in the team.

Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi, a Phoenix-based private-equity investor, released an open letter to Suns employees and players on Thursday denouncing the conduct described in the NBA's report and calling for Sarver's resignation as managing partner of the team, via The Arizona Republic's Duane Rankin:

I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege. Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver. While I have no interest in becoming the managing partner, I will work tirelessly to ensure the next team steward treats all stakeholders with dignity, professionalism and respect.

The NBA suspended Sarver from all league activities for one year and fined him $10 million, but stopped short of forcing him to sell the team, like they did with former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended the decision by pointing to differences in the two cases.

Among other things, the league's investigation found Sarver to have used the N-word at least five times when relaying statements from Black people, to have demeaned and bullied female employees and to have made inappropriate physical contact with male employees.

The Suns have since named a different vice chairman, Sam Garvin, as the team's interim governor.

This isn't the first time Najafi has spoken out against Sarver, as he called the allegations "unacceptable" if true when they were first reported last year and seemingly sent a pointed message by attending a Suns game with Colin Kaepernick, with whom he co-chairs a company.

Phoenix Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi is calling for the resignation of majority owner Robert Sarver in the wake of a scathing report into the team's toxic workplace. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi is calling for the resignation of majority owner Robert Sarver in the wake of a scathing report into the team's toxic workplace. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi's full letter on Robert Sarver

An open letter to the employees and players of the Phoenix Suns:

Due to the NBA's investigation and findings, I have no choice but to speak up on behalf of the hundreds of you that have been impacted by your interactions with Robert Sarver and the resulting investigation of his conduct. I first and foremost want to give my deepest thanks to all of you who garnered the courage to share your experiences, as difficult as it may have been, to help piece together a clearer picture of what work life must have been like for you over these past 18 years.

There should be zero tolerance for discriminatory actions of any level, in any setting, let alone a professional one. There is no question that the findings determined that Mr. Sarver's lewd, misogynist and racist conduct had a substantial negative impact on you and has no place in our society. The report confirmed by multiple eyewitnesses that Robert Sarver used the "N-word" at least 5 times. The report confirmed Sarver engaged in conduct demeaning of female and pregnant employees. The report confirmed Sarver made crude and sexually inappropriate comments in professional settings. The report confirmed Sarver made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women and made inappropriate workplace physical conduct toward male employees.

WORDS AND ACTIONS MATTER.

Similar conduct by any CEO , executive director, president, teacher, coach or any other position of leadership would warrant immediate termination. The fact that Robert Sarver "owns" the team does not give him a license to treat others differently than any other leader. The fact that anyone would find him fit to lead because of this "ownership" position is forgetting that NBA teams belong to the communities they serve. Team investors are merely temporary stewards. If we, as sports leaders, are not held to the same standards then how can we expect a functional society with integrity and respect on any level? We owe it to you: employees, players, partners and your families to provide the same positive workplace environment we would require of any other business.

I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege. Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver. While I have no interest in becoming the managing partner, I will work tirelessly to ensure the next team steward treats all stakeholders with dignity, professionalism and respect.