The NBA is launching a comprehensive investigation into Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, after ESPN published a report on Thursday containing claims that he has routinely made racist and misogynistic comments.
In a statement, NBA Executive Vice President of Communications Mike Bass called the allegations "extremely serious," adding that both 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."
ESPN writer Baxter Holmes spoke with more than 70 former and current Suns employees, including a co-owner, for the report. Many of the people interviewed described a "toxic and sometimes hostile workplace," where Sarver allegedly used the N-word, made lewd comments, and discussed his sex life during meetings. One former Suns executive told Holmes that there is "literally nothing you could tell me about [Sarver] from a misogynistic or race standpoint that would surprise me."
Through his legal team, Sarver denied calling anyone the N-word, and said he would "entirely welcome an impartial NBA investigation which may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I'm so very proud." He was also defended by Suns President and CEO Jason Rowley, who called him "a hard-driving, competitive, and compassionate man."
Former Suns head coach Earl Watson was willing to go on the record for the article, and said in a statement released Thursday afternoon that he applauded the "courage of the numerous players, executives, and staffers for fighting toxic environments of racial insensitivity, sexual harassment, and micro-aggressions with their truth."