Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has been accused of racism, misogyny and creating a hostile work environment by over 70 of his former and current employees, ESPN revealed in a bombshell report on Thursday (Nov. 4).
According to the outlet’s senior writer Baxter Holmes, members of Sarver’s team accused him of using racial slurs, making lewd sexual comments and fostering an environment where “employees felt they were his property.”
One incident referenced in the report was from 2016, when Sarver allegedly asked former Suns coach Earl Watson, who is Black and Hispanic, why Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green “get[s] to run up the court and say n****.” Watson said Sarver repeated the slur several more times after he told him, “You can’t say that.”
Sarver also allegedly used the slur in 2013 when explaining his decision to hire then-interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, who is Black, over Dan Majerle. “These ni****s need a ni****,” he told a need a staff member, a team executive told ESPN.
“The level of misogyny and racism is beyond the pale,” one Suns co-owner told the outlet. “It’s embarrassing as an owner.”
“There’s literally nothing you could tell me about him (Sarver) from a misogynistic or race standpoint that would surprise me,” another former Suns executive said.
According to the report, Sarver also once asked a female employee whether or not he “owned” her when discussing her employment with the Suns. Furthermore, more than a dozen staff members claimed Sarver made inappropriate sexual comments during meetings, including discussing his wife performing oral sex on him.
One female employee told ESPN that “women have very little value” to Sarver, saying, “Women are possessions, and I think we’re nowhere close to where he thinks men are.”
Last month, the Suns denied any misconduct, specifically gender or racial discrimination, and said they “urge everyone not to rush to judgement here. Especially based on lies, innuendo and a false narrative to attack our organization and its leadership.”
Through his attorneys, Sarver admitted to using the N-word once many years ago, but denied the accusations in ESPN’s report.
“On one occasion a player used the N-word to describe the importance of having each others’ back. I responded by saying, ‘I wouldn’t say n***a, I would say that we’re in the foxhole together,’” he said. “An assistant coach approached me a short time after and told me that I shouldn’t say the word, even if I were quoting someone else. I immediately apologized and haven’t said it ever again.”
Sarver specifically denied Watson’s account from 2016, saying, “Let me be crystal clear: I never once suggested on that night (or ever) that I should be able to say the N-word because a player or a Black person uses it.”
Instead, Sarver says that during the 2016 game in question, a Suns players received a technical foul for saying the N-word on the court. Sarver said he encouraged the player to appeal the foul because Green also used the word, and the foul was later rescinded by the league.
Sarver bought the Suns in 2004. He also owns the WNBA team Phoenix Mercury.