Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and members of his organization issued a statement on Friday denying allegations of racism, sexism and sexual harassment detailed in a yet-to-be-published media report.
In a lengthy, strongly-worded statement, Sarver said claims he believed would be made in a forthcoming ESPN story were based on “lies, innuendo, and a false narrative” designed to “attack our organization.”
“I am wholly shocked by some of the allegations purported by ESPN about me, personally, or about the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations,” said Sarver, who also owns the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team.
“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.
“I reject any insinuation of personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination. I despise language that disrespects any individuals, regardless of race, gender, preference, or choice.”
Proven allegations of racist behavior or use of racist language could have serious implications for any NBA team owner.
In 2014, then Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was fined $2.5 million and banned for life from the NBA after being recorded using racist language. The league later forced the sale of the team to new owners.
Phoenix Suns chief executive Jason Rowley said the purported ESPN story was “completely outrageous 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,” Rowley said.
Suns general manager James Jones, who is Black, added: “None of what’s been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like — it just doesn’t.”
ESPN could not be immediately reached for comment.
Sarver, 59, bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million. The franchise is now worth an estimated $1.55 billion.
Phoenix reached the NBA Finals last season, where they were beaten in six games by the Milwaukee Bucks.
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