Phoenix Suns owner goes on defensive ahead of rumored ESPN report on bias

Phoenix Suns owner goes on defensive ahead of rumored ESPN report on bias
© Getty

Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, went on the defensive ahead of a rumored ESPN investigation into allegations of racial and gender bias in his organization. 

Sarver, the managing partner of the Suns Legacy Partners LLC, said in a statement on Friday that he was shocked about the allegations ESPN made about him and his organizations. 

“I don’t know how to prove that something DIDN’T happen, and it is difficult to erase or forget ugly accusations once they are made,” Sarver said in a statement. “I categorically deny any and all suggestions that I used disparaging language related to race or gender.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sarver, the executive chairman of Western Alliance Bancorporation, bought the Suns in 2004 with a group of other investors. 

He said he is proud “of the record of diversity and inclusion” both of his teams have on and off the court. 

NBA reporter Jordan Schultz reported on Friday that the NBA is preparing for ESPN to publish a story accusing Sarver of racism, sexism and sexual harassment within his organization. 

Schultz noted the league could forcibly remove Sarver if there is enough evidence to support such claims, as it did with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014 when he was recorded making racist comments during a phone call with his girlfriend. 

The Suns issued a statement saying they have the evidence and eyewitness accounts that contradict the upcoming reports.

"We urge everyone not to rush to judgement here," it wrote. "Especially based on lies, innuendo and a false narrative to attack our organization and its leadership."

ESPN published a report in 2019 describing a “messy and dysfunctional” front office culture with the Suns organization, sharing how Sarver would dress down star players in the locker rooms.

The rumored ESPN report also comes in the wake of NFL coach Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders being fired over a series of emails sent a decade ago expressing racist, sexist and homophobic views. 

Both Phoenix franchises are near the top of their respective leagues. The Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA championship last season, while the Mercury lost the WNBA championship earlier this month to the Chicago Sky. 

The Hill has reached out to the NBA and ESPN for comment.