The NBA investigation into Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury majority owner Robert Sarver seems to be nearing its end, and a number of activists are now calling for action from NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
The American Sports Accountability Project (ASAP) released a letter sent to Silver on Thursday demanding Sarver be removed from the league following the investigation, which the group said it believes “will further corroborate the countless incidents and experiences spanning nearly two decades.”
Sarver has been under investigation since last November, when more than 70 current and former employees claimed the real estate developer frequently used racist, misogynistic and otherwise dehumanizing language while running the franchise.
Sarver has denied the allegations.
ASAP concluded its letter by comparing the Sarver allegations to past situations such as the Los Angeles Clippers’ Donald Sterling scandal, the Dallas Mavericks’ corrosive workplace and the Portland Trail Blazers’ Neil Olshey allegations:
Under your leadership, the NBA has made clear its intolerance for hatred, bigotry, and any other form of discrimination. This has been reinforced by the League’s creation of a Social Justice Coalition in 2021, as well as its response to previous reports of misconduct, including those involving the Clippers, the Mavericks, and most recently, the [Trail Blazers]. In all of the aforementioned cases, those responsible were removed from their respective positions. We see no reason the response to Mr. Sarver should not follow suit.
Legacy civil rights groups and social justice activists have decried the culture in the NBA and previously held conversations with NBA leadership to bring these issues to the forefront. Since then, the NBA has led the American sports community in its commitment to justice and accountability. As Commissioner of the league, your response to the investigation and subsequent action by the Board of Governors must align with the NBA’s stated commitment to social justice and past decisions to impose consequences on those who have a history of abusive behavior.
Among the signees were leaders for Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Black Women’s Roundtable.
The letter referred to several instances of Sarver’s alleged behavior that have been publicly reported, including free use of a racial slur and demeaning language toward female employees. It also acknowledged Sarver’s denial, but disputed the idea that dozens of people should need hard proof to be heard:
We take issue with the notion that victims must film or record the abuses being committed against them in order for those abuses to be considered true. Indeed, shifting the burden to victims in this way is a key unearth to progress in our struggle for racial and social justice in the United States and throughout the world. It is a tactic that deserves no home within the NBA.
The group also presented Sarver’s leaked “roast” of a late Suns minority owner that contained many jokes closely resembling the alleged language that got him in hot water, something the letter claims “lends excruciating credence to allegations” against Sarver.
As of this month, the NBA’s investigation, run by the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm, has reportedly interviewed more than 300 Suns employees and is preparing to interview Sarver himself. It’s unclear when the investigation will conclude.