On Oct. 22, the Suns and their managing partner, Robert Sarver, attempted to get ahead of an unpublished story that was said to contain allegations of racism, sexism and sexual harassment against Sarver.
Sarver released a statement through the team in which he tried to preemptively deny what would be reported. News of the pending report was broken by Portland podcaster Jordan Schultz, who tweeted the NBA was preparing for a “massive” story about Sarver.
Schultz did not tweet that ESPN was publishing the report, but Sarver said so in his statement.
“I am wholly shocked by some of the allegations purported by ESPN about me, personally or about the Phoenix Suns and (WNBA) Mercury organizations,” Sarver said. “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.
“First and foremost, I reject any insinuation or personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination, I despise language that disrespects and individuals, regardless of race, gender preference or choice.”
Sarver added later in the statement: “I don’t begin to know how to prove that something DIDN’T happen (emphasis Sarver’s), and it is difficult to erase or forget ugly allegations once they are made. Even hints of racism or sexism in our culture today are toxic and damaging and should not be lightly raised.”
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It was not known to what Sarver was referring in his statement because the report had not yet been published.
The Suns organization said in a separate statement that “(d)ocumentary 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.”
Schultz’s tweet had NBA fans rushing to compare Sarver with former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who received a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine, the maximum allowed, by commissioner Adam Silver in 2014 after Sterling was heard on multiple recordings making racist comments. Sterling was forced by his partners to sell his stake in the team to Steve Ballmer later that year.