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Report: Robert Sarver Was Pressured by Adam Silver, NBA Governors to Sell Suns

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 21, 2022

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Publicly, NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended his decision to suspend Phoenix Suns governor Robert Sarver for one year.

Privately, Silver reportedly put "pressure" on Sarver to exit the league entirely.

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported Silver and other team governors worked behind the scenes to convince Sarver it was in the best interest to sell the Suns and Phoenix Mercury.

"There was a lot of private pressure on Robert Sarver behind the scenes," Shelburne said Wednesday on NBA Today. "We heard PayPal, but there were a lot of other league sponsors and team sponsors that were lining up to pull away from the Suns and not be publicly associated with them.

"There was also the pressure applied by other owners and Adam Silver behind the scenes. Adam Silver is obviously very good at applying pressure when needed to be and facilitating these types of conversations and discussions to get to this place."

Sarver announced his intention to sell the Suns and Mercury earlier Wednesday, casting blame on an "unforgiving climate" amid public pressure to sell.

"As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness," Sarver said in a statement. "I expected that the commissioner's one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.

"But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible—that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past."

The NBA suspended Sarver and fined him $10 million earlier this month after an investigation found he used racial slurs, bullied employees, engaged in inequitable treatment of female employees and ran a hostile work environment over the course of his 17-year tenure with the Suns.

“I fully support the decision by Robert Sarver to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. This is the right next step for the organization and community," Silver said in a statement.

Sarver was a largely unpopular figure among the Suns fanbase, particularly for his penchant for penny-pinching rather than investing in the team. His finance-over-basketball decisions are regarded among some fans as the reason the Seven Seconds or Less Suns never won a championship.

NBA executives recently called Sarver out for the team's decision to not offer Deandre Ayton a maximum contract extension. The team instead allowed Ayton to hit restricted free agency and then matched a four-year maximum offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers. By taking this route, the Suns saved about $43 million versus the full five-year max.

Past criticisms of his spending paled in comparison to the reaction to the NBA's independent report. Silver's decision to suspend Sarver for one year was roundly criticized as being insufficient, with stars LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green publicly calling out the league.

NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio called on the league to permanently ban Sarver. While there was a precedent set by the league in banning former Los Angeles Clippers governor Donald Sterling for life, Silver called the situations "dramatically different."

Fans, players and sponsors disagreed with Silver's categorization, and it seems the commissioner may have worked behind the scenes to quell the public criticism.

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