Report: Suns' CEO Fielding Employees' Concerns About Post-Sarver Era

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 22, 2022

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 11:  The Phoenix Suns logo is seen on the court before the NBA game against the Orlando Magic at US Airways Center on December 11, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Magic 106-103.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Phoenix Suns reportedly took a step into the post-Robert Sarver world within the organization by holding an all-employees call Wednesday to address concerns about the organization's culture in the wake of the independent investigation into the team governor.

ESPN's Baxter Holmes reported Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley answered the questions that covered a variety of topics, including whether other leaders would be held responsible for the workplace culture.

The meeting came shortly after Sarver released a statement saying he would sell the NBA's Suns and WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

It was a Holmes report in Nov. 2021 about allegations of racist and sexist behavior from Sarver that set off the chain of events that led to Wednesday. The NBA commissioned an independent investigation and suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10 million when it announced the findings on Sept. 13.

The investigation found Sarver "engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards" that "included the use of racially insensitive language; unequal treatment of female employees; sex-related statements and conduct; and harsh treatment of employees that on occasion constituted bullying."

Notably, it discovered that Sarver used the N-word "on at least five occasions" and "engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees, including by yelling and cursing at them."

One of the questions Rowley discussed was why the organization did not initially address the specific allegations, and he shared a statement with staff members before it was released to the public.

On Wednesday, Suns Legacy Partners, which manages the Suns and Mercury, released the statement that said they agreed with Sarver's decision to sell and recognized the organization's need to make strides elsewhere:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

<a href="https://t.co/9Rwf1v9wHn">pic.twitter.com/9Rwf1v9wHn</a>

Phoenix Mercury @PhoenixMercury

<a href="https://t.co/CqIpB3PuOw">pic.twitter.com/CqIpB3PuOw</a>

As for whether there would be punishment for other members of the organization who contributed to the culture of workplace misconduct, Rowley said "corrective action" will be applied where necessary after parts of the investigation are further explored.

He also pointed to the organization's recent hire of a "diversity, equity and inclusion leader" when addressing what will be done to provide clearer paths to leadership roles for women, people of color and women of color.

"I'm relieved, I'm beyond happy, I'm empowered and I'm motivated to continue to ensure that all of the men in that organization still in power who upheld this culture are rooted out," one staff member said.

As for Sarver, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was among those behind the scenes pressuring him to sell the Suns and Mercury.