Published on Thursday (Nov. 4), the article, by senior writer Baxter Holmes, claims Sarver has repeatedly used the n-word in conversations with and about athletes and includes first-person accounts of said experiences. He interviewed more than 70 former and current Suns employees throughout Sarver’s 17-year tenure.
“The level of misogyny and racism is beyond the pale,” remarked one Suns co-owner. “It’s embarrassing as an owner.”
“There’s literally nothing you could tell me about him from a misogynistic or race standpoint that would surprise me,” added a former Suns basketball executive.
Jason Rowley, president and CEO of the NBA team, defended Sarver’s character: “This story is 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.”
Sarver released a statement through the Suns organization denying all claims of racist and inappropriate behavior.
“I continue to be shocked by the false reporting from Baxter Holmes,” said Sarver.
“While there is so much that is inaccurate and misleading in this story that I hardly know where to begin, let me be clear: The n-word is not part of my vocabulary. I have never called anyone or any group of people the n-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by that word, either verbally or in writing. I don’t use that word. It is abhorrent and ugly and denigrating and against everything I believe in.”
He continued to claim former Suns coach Earl Watson created “an unprofessional and toxic atmosphere” and claimed he was not a “credible source.” Watson was fired three games into the 2017–18 season. He had led the team as head coach since 2016 as the second-youngest head coach in NBA history.
Watson, who currently works as the assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors, has issued a statement of his own:
“I am not interested in engaging in an ongoing battle of fact,” Watson said as part of his statement. “Instead, I want to applaud the courage of the numerous players, executives, and staffers for fighting toxic environments of racial insensitivity, sexual harassment, and micro-aggressions of their truth.”
— Earl J Watson (@Earl_Watson) November 4, 2021
NBA Executive Vice President, Communications Mike Bass issued an official statement shortly after the article was published addressing the matter announcing an official inquiry into all accusations.
“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton law firm to commence a comprehensive investigation. The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees. Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”