Suns owner Robert Sarver says he’s selling both of his basketball teams

by Jacob Fuller

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Banking and real estate mogul Robert Sarver, who has been mired in controversy following allegations of racism and sexism, will soon be out of the NBA and WNBA.

Wednesday, Sarver announced he’d begun the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, two teams for which he has served as managing partner since 2004.

“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball,” Sarver said in a statement released by PRNewsWire.

Sarver later added, “I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world. I want what’s best for these two organizations … This is the best course of action for everyone.

“In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together.”

As previously reported on FISM, Sarver was accused of using and later admitted to having used a racial slur in reference to black people on numerous occasions. He was also found responsible for having created a work environment that was hostile toward women.

Sarver had previously accepted responsibility, been fined $10 million, and was in the process of serving out a lengthy suspension.

“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness,” Sarver said. “I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.

“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”

Sarver was applauded for his decision by both NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the various partners with whom Sarver co-owns the basketball teams.

“I fully support the decision by Robert Sarver to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Silver said in a brief tweet. “This is the right next step for the organization and community.”

The Phoenix Suns organization, speaking for Sarver’s co-owners, posted on its Twitter account that the teams agreed with Sarver’s decision but that, “today’s news does not change the work that remains in front of us to create, maintain and protect a best-in-class experience for our staff, players, fans, partners and community.

Per a report from ESPN, although not the full owner of either franchise, as managing partner Sarver has the ability to sell the entirety of the team, even those stakes he does not own.

The process could play out numerous ways but, in the most basic terms, the future profile of Suns ownership will hinge on how much of the team a potential buyer wishes to purchase. It is possible that a buyer could ask for only Sarver’s stake, but it’s equally possible that a prospective owner or ownership group will demand the entirety of the franchise.