LOS ANGELES — Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver on Friday strongly denied allegations of “racism, sexism and sexual harassment” by him or his organization planned for an upcoming ESPN story.

Jordan Schultz is the host of PullUpPod. This podcast features Portland Trail Blazers’ guard C.J. McCollum, first tweeted Friday a story accusing Sarver was about to be released:

According to sources, the NBA is planning a huge story about Robert Sarver being accused of racism and sexism, as well as sexual harassment, in a variety of cases. With enough evidence to support such claims, there’s a real chance the league would forcibly remove Sarver,” Schultz said on Twitter.

Sarver released a response saying he is “wholly stunned” by the accusations, and strongly denigrating them.

“I am wholly shocked by some of the allegations purported by ESPN about me, personally, or about the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations,” Sarver said in the statement. “While I can’t begin to know how to respond to some of the vague suggestions made by mostly anonymous voices, I can certainly tell you that some of the claims I find completely repugnant to my nature and to the character of the Suns/Mercury workplace and I can tell you they never, ever happened.”

Sarver continued by saying in the statement he rejects “any insinuation of personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination” directed towards him.

“First and foremost, I reject any insinuation of personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination. Language that does not respect any person, regardless their race, gender or preference is something I abhor. This language is not appropriate for business and home, in my Suns or Mercury family. I am proud of our record of diversity and inclusion on both teams – whether on the court or in the front office.”

Sarver finished his statement by pondering how to reply to the charges.

“I don’t begin to know how to prove that something DIDN’T happen, and it is difficult to erase or forget ugly accusations once they are made. Sexist and racism are harmful traits that should never be ignored.  Any suggestion that I have used demeaning language about race or gender is unfounded.  I would like to think that my actions and public record regarding race, gender, or discrimination of any kind, over a lifetime in business and community service, will adequately answer any questions anyone might raise about my commitment to equality and fairness.”

James Jones, the Suns’ general manager, has defended Sarver through a statement.

“None of what’s been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like — it just doesn’t,” Jones said.

Jason Rowley (Suns CEO and president) made an additional statement, in which he said that they take seriously allegations of racism and sexism and harassment.

“The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury organization takes very seriously our commitment to promoting a respectful, fun, competitive and enriching work environment, and we are proud of our track record relating to employee wellbeing.  Any allegations of racism or sexism are treated seriously by us. They have no place within our company and will not be tolerated.  Concerning recent ESPN articles about Robert Sarver, my response will be to say we know the lies it contains and that we plan to address them accordingly.

Rowley claimed that the ESPN article about Sarver was completely absurd and false.

“It doesn’t represent — at all — the Robert Sarver I’ve worked alongside of for 15 years.  He’s not a racist and he’s not a sexist. In this case, the reporter has displayed a dangerous disregard for truth.  He has harassed employees, former employees, and family members; used truths, half-truths and rumors to manufacture a story in which he’s heavily invested and then perpetuate a completely false narrative within the sports industry to back it up.  His tactics throughout this process have been without any basis in journalism ethics or even morality.”

This was all part of a massive statement from the Suns, which was posted on its Twitter account, in response to the tweet on the upcoming article from ESPN.

We understand ESPN may publish a story about Suns Legacy Partners, LLC that contains baseless allegations against them. It covers a wide range of subjects.  Documentary evidence in our possession and eyewitness accounts directly contradict the reporter’s accusations, and we are preparing our response to his questions. It is important not to jump to conclusions.  This is especially true if it’s based upon lies, innuendo and a false narrative that attacks our organization and its leaders.”

The situation conjures memories of Donald Sterling, who was banned from the NBA in 2014 in reaction to the then Los Angeles Clippers team owner’s racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation. Sterling was also fined $2.5 Million. 

At that time, Sarver let it be known he didn’t want to be affiliated with Sterling. 

Sarver stated at that time, “I wouldn’t be friends with someone who holds the same views as those tapes.” 

Sarver teleconferenced with his players regarding that particular situation.

Sarver stated, “You are familiar with my record in these areas.” The NBA’s mission is to promote tolerance, diversity and respect for everyone.

Sarver was criticised over the years for his financial arrangements in the $230 million renovation of Footprint Center. This has now risen to $245 Million.

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver claps as Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi is introduced during the second quarter of the Western Conference first round playoff series between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers in Phoenix June 1, 2021.

The city of Phoenix had to pay $150 million while Sarver handled the remaining $80 million and any cost overruns, which was at $15 million by this summer.

ESPN reported back in 2019 that that Sarver “acquired some live goats from a Diana Taurasi event at Talking Stick Resort Arena and planted them upstairs” in then-Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough’s office.

This was supposed to be a practical joke and motivation for the Suns to find a “GOAT” or dominate play like the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury have in Taurasi, but the goats reportedly defecated all over McDonough’s office.

However, he elevated Jones to replace McDonough before the 2018-19 season and Jones proceeded to win last season’s NBA executive of the year award in putting together a team that reached the finals.

Sarver built a $45million practice facility for Mercury and Suns. This was in addition to the $45 million that Sarver spent on the Suns. Larry Fitzgerald is also close to Sarver, and has a minor ownership stake in the Suns.

Sarver, who was part in the hiring of Monty Williams as head coach, was recognized for many positive aspects. But, Sarver also took some heat for Suns starting centre Deandre Ayton’s failure to receive a rookie max extension. 

Source: USAToday.com

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