Suns’ Sale Shines Light on Sarver’s “Penalty”

Ashley Landis – AP

After Robert Sarver’s light one year ban from all NBA and WNBA related activities and a $10 million dollar fine, he decided to sell the Suns on September 21st. Unfortunately, while at first blush many were pleased to see Sarver removed from the league, he will still collect a significant profit from his original investment. Initially, in 2004, Sarver and the group he led paid around $400 million for the franchises. Last October, Forbes projected the Suns to be the 18thmost valuable NBA franchise, coming in at $1.8 billion. [1] After the revelations came to light of the repeated incidents of racist, misogynistic, and harassing behavior by Sarver which was corroborated by 70 former and current Suns employees, it is hard to accept that this is the only punishment he receives. How do you put a dollar total on trauma, embarrassment for the league, and explain the failure to notice this sooner? Thankfully, high-profile NBA players such as LeBron James, Chris Paul and Draymond Green have objected to the relatively minimal punishment. Even companies such as PayPal threatened not to renew their partnerships with the franchises if Sarver remained the owner. [2] Now with this opportunity to sell for over a triple profit, what does that $10 million-dollar fine mean? It equates to a slap on the wrist. Robert Sarver will still walk out rich and he will be able to turn his back to those he has traumatized and the organization he has tarnished. 

            Regardless of the punishment, there is still the impact Sarver’s actions had upon people, how it will impact the team in the future, and how it will affect the community. The Suns organization will now be under direct light to find someone to fill his spot and to possibly check yearly to ensure they are holding themselves to the values the NBA publicly embraces. What is frustrating, though? Shouldn’t that already be happening? How did this go on for so long? Were accusations brushed under the rug? While we will never know for sure, hopefully this can be a lesson to the entire organization. 

     Devin Booker, a 2015 draft pick, offered his own perspective on how he felt about the investigation. stating, “It was tough,” Booker said. “It’s tough for me because that’s not the Robert Sarver that I know. It’s not the Robert Sarver that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms, but at the same time, I’m not insensitive to everybody that is involved in this situation. I understand everybody’s experience with other people are always going to be different, but it’s tough for me because it’s not the person that I know.”[3] Personally? That, to me, is the most frightening part. How many other Robert Sarvers are out there hiding behind a dual personality? How do we ensure that this doesn’t happen again? The dissolution of Sarver’s business relationship with the leagues will bring closure to some, but hopefully this ensures the leagues can focus on raising the standards and ensuring that the values of the leagues are upheld.

[1] https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10051086-stein-suns-appear-destined-to-sell-for-nba-record-price-could-hit-4-billion

[2] https://andscape.com/features/robert-sarver-and-ime-udoka-are-cases-of-clarity-and-confusion/

[3] https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2022/09/26/suns-express-disappointment-robert-sarver-investigation-findings/8124231001/

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University at Buffalo School of Law Class of 2023
Former college softball player, now focusing on the start of my legal career with the hope that I can continue combining my love for sports with my love for the law.
Go Bills

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