Robert Sarver to sell Phoenix Suns and Mercury after harassment report

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends Game 2 of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Christian Peterson | Getty Images

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver has said he will begin the process of selling both professional basketball teams after a damning report detailed nearly two decades of workplace harassment and inappropriate behavior. from the executive.

Blaming an “unforgiving climate,” Sarver said in a statement Wednesday that he was unable to separate his “personal” controversy from NBA and WNBA teams.

“Anything good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For these reasons, I am beginning the process of finding buyers for the Suns and Mercury “, he wrote.

Forbes values ​​the Suns, who looked lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals, at $1.8 billion. The Mercurys have won four WNBA titles.

The NBA last week suspended Sarver for a year after an independent investigation corroborated details of a November ESPN report that alleged the owner used racist language, made sex-related comments to and about women and mistreated employees. The league also fined him $10 million.

“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last week. “We believe the result is the correct one, considering all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the thorough investigation of this 18-year period.”

The NBA had no comment on Sarver’s announcement on Wednesday.

Sarver controversy recalls when former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was fined $2.5 million and banned for life from the NBA after he was caught making racist comments on recordings. He was forced to sell the team for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer after 33 years of ownership. Sterling sued the NBA, but the lawsuit was settled in 2016.

Here is Sarver’s full statement:

Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that have brought people together — and strengthened the Phoenix area — through the unifying power of men’s and women’s professional basketball.

As a man of faith, I believe in the atonement and the path of forgiveness. I expected the commissioner’s one-year suspension to give me time to focus, make amends, and take my personal controversy out of the teams I and so many fans love.

But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that this is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by the things I have said in the past. For these reasons, I am beginning the process of finding buyers for the Suns and Mercury.

I don’t want to be a distraction to these two teams and the great people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want the best for both of these organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my co-owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.

In the meantime, I will continue to work to become a better person and continue to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the suns and the mercury, embracing the power that sport has to bring us together.

– CNBC’s Lillian Rizzo contributed to this report.

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