LeBron James, Chris Paul Call Out NBA Over Robert Sarver Decision: “Our League Definitely Got This Wrong”
“Our league definitely got this wrong,” wrote LeBron James today just hours after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver went before the media to try and contain the fallout over what many consider mild sanctions on Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for sexist, racist and abusive behavior toward subordinates. James, like many former players and pundits, felt that “there is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team.”
Possibly even more crucial, Suns all-star point guard, locker room leader and former president of the NBA Players’ Association Chris Paul just posted a statement on Twitter that reads in part, “I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read…I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior.”
Paul’s words carry even more weight because he was the leader of the Los Angeles Clippers when, in 2014, that team’s owner Donald Sterling was forced to sell the team after being caught on tape making racist remarks.
This week the league, after a months-long investigation, confirmed details about Sarver’s behavior that were first aired nearly a year ago in a November, 2021 ESPN report. That story included instances of Sarver repeatedly using the N-word over the course of decades in front of players, coaches, team staff and even in an email to the league.
According to the NBA’s findings, Sarver also made a joke that the the team should have players “impregnate local strippers so they would feel connected to the area, giving the Suns a potential edge in free agency recruitment.”
He described sex acts with his wife in front of employees and told one employee she “would be unable to do her job upon becoming a mother” and contending that she would be busy “breastfeeding” and that a “baby needs their mom, not their father.” After the employee cried in response, Sarver asked why women “cry so much.”
There also were “instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees,” including “sex-related comments” according to the NBA report. Sarver, it’s important to note, also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
One former Suns basketball executive told ESPN in 2021: “There’s literally nothing you could tell me about him from a misogynistic or race standpoint that would surprise me.”
Still, league investigators concluded that there was “no finding that Sarver’s conduct was motivated by racial or gender-based animus.” He received a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine. That’s the upper limit of a fine allowed by the NBA. But Sarver’s net worth is, on the low end, $400 million and, on the high end, $850 million, according to reports.
League commissioner Silver said yesterday that, had the independent investigation found such animus, “absolutely that would have had an impact on the ultimate outcome here. But that’s not what they found.” He also said that he does not have the power to forcer Sarver to sell the team, which it technically true.
Many have compared Sarver’s actions to those of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who in 2014 was caught on tape making racist remarks.
At that time Silver, who was just weeks into his job as NBA Commissioner, hammered Sterling with a lifetime ban and fined him $2.5 million. He also asked the other NBA team owners to force Sterling to sell the team, adding he would “do everything in my power to insure that happens.” Silver said it would take a 3/4 vote by owners in favor of forcing Sterling to sell to make it happen, saying confidently, “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him.”
In Sterling’s case, there was massive outcry from figures such as then-president Barack Obama, Lakers great Magic Johnson and Jon Stewart. Many of the Clippers’ corporate sponsors, including such companies as Kia and Carfax, ended or suspended their relationships with the team.
No so this time around — at least yet — and Silver has been less strident about Sarver’s transgressions.
“I think what we saw in the case of Donald Sterling was blatant racist conduct directed at a select group of people,” thye commissioner said this week. “While it’s difficult to know what is in someone’s heart or in their mind, we heard those words…In the case of Robert Sarver, I’d say, first of all, we’re looking at the totality of circumstances over an 18-year period in which he’s owned these teams, and ultimately we made a judgment — I made a judgment — that in the circumstances in which he had used that language and that behavior, that while, as I said, it was indefensible, is not strong enough.”
The league’s marquee player disagrees.
“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right,” wrote James on Twitter today. “We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.”
Here’s is James’ full statement:
Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself. I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.
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