LeBron James on Robert Sarver Punishment: 'Our League Definitely Got This Wrong'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 14, 2022

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - AUGUST 20: LeBron James runs down the court during the CrawsOver Pro-Am game at Seattle Pacific University on August 20, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
Cassy Athena/Getty Images

LeBron James believes Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury managing partner Robert Sarver should face a harsher penalty than a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine.

The Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted, "Our league definitely got this wrong," adding: "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."

LeBron James @KingJames

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.

The NBA announced Sarver's punishment Tuesday following an investigation that determined he "engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards":

NBA Communications @NBAPR

The NBA today issued the following statement: <a href="https://t.co/jjlBK771PT">pic.twitter.com/jjlBK771PT</a>

Sarver first came under significant scrutiny in November 2021 when ESPN's Baxter Holmes reported on multiple allegations of racism and misogyny by Sarver with the Suns.

The NBA responded by initiating an independent investigation, and the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz released its findings Tuesday in a 43-page report following interviews with 320 people and a review of more than 80,000 documents.

Notably, the investigation determined Sarver "said the N-word in repeating or purporting to repeat a Black person on at least five occasions during his tenure, including after being advised not to do so" and "made many sex-related comments in the workplace."

What's more, the probe found he "made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women" and "frequently engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees—including by yelling and cursing at them."

Given Sarver's position with the Suns and the nature of the investigation's findings, it was easy to think of the NBA's 2014 response to former Los Angeles Clippers governor Donald Sterling after he was heard making racist comments on tape.

That happened in the early days of Adam Silver's tenure as commissioner, and he responded by banning Sterling from the league and fining him $2.5 million in a move that garnered plenty of praise.

Yet Sarver has been suspended rather than banned, and James—one of the most notable voices in NBA history given the combination of his on-court accomplishments and his willingness to speak out on non-basketball issues—is among those who disagree with the punishment.

Silver held a press conference Wednesday and told reporters the Sarver situation is "dramatically different" than the Sterling one.

The commissioner said Sterling was guilty of "blatant racist conduct directed at a select group of people," while Sarver's comments were "beyond the pale" but "wholly of a different kind."

During the press conference, Silver also said, "there are particular rights here to someone who owns an NBA team as opposed to someone who is an employee" when explaining why an employee of a team might be fired for these actions but Sarver can still keep the team.

James, though, seems to think there is no room in the NBA for Sarver's return to his previous role.