US basketball

LeBron on Sarver punishment: ‘League definitely got this wrong’


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LeBron on Sarver punishment: ‘League definitely got this wrong’

CRITICAL. LeBron James says there's no place for sexism and racism in any workplace.

Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The NBA's decision to fine and suspend Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver but not ban him for reported racist and sexist behavior isn't sitting well with some of the league's biggest stars

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James criticized the NBA on Wednesday, September 14, and said the punishment given to Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for using racial slurs and treating female employees inequitably was not harsh enough.

Sarver, who bought the Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury in 2004, was suspended by the NBA for one year and fined $10 million on Tuesday after an independent investigation into allegations over workplace misconduct.

James, a four-time NBA champion and the face of the league, said he read through details of the Sarver story a few times and feels the league should have no tolerance for such behavior regardless of the offender’s status.

“Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself,” James wrote on Twitter. “I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior.

“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.”

Suns guard Chris Paul and National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio also made their opposition to the Sarver ruling known on Wednesday.

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Suns owner banned 1 year, fined $10 million over workplace conduct

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Paul posted on his Twitter account, “Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated.

“I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected.”

Tremaglio issued a statement that read, in part, “Mr. Sarver’s reported actions and conduct are horrible and have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter.

“Additionally, the investigation confirmed that Mr. Sarver’s deplorable behavior did not just come to light in November 2021. In fact, the report indicated Mr. Sarver’s long history of inappropriate conduct, including racial and gender insensitivity, misogyny and harassment. All issues that led to a toxic work environment for well over a decade.

“I have made my position known to (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again.”

Sarver vs Sterling

Silver defended the league’s decision on Wednesday, saying, “Let me reiterate: The conduct is indefensible. But I feel we dealt with it in a fair manner in both taking into account the totality of the circumstances, not just those particular allegations, but the 18 years in which Mr. Sarver has owned the Suns and (the WNBA’s) Mercury.”

Regarding comparisons between the Sarver case and that of Donald Sterling, whom the league forced out as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014, Silver said, “What we saw in the case of Donald Sterling was blatant racist conduct directed at a select group of people. While it’s difficult to know what is in someone’s heart or in their mind, we heard those words, and then there was a follow-up from the league office and that became public as well what Mr. Sterling’s testimony said about his actions.

“In the case of Robert Sarver, I’d say, first of all, we’re looking at the totality of circumstances over an 18-year period in which he’s owned these teams. And ultimately, we made a judgment, I made a judgment, that in the circumstances in which he had used that language and that behavior while, as I said it was indefensible, it’s not strong enough (to merit a lifetime ban). It’s beyond the pale in every possible way to use language and behave that way, but that it was wholly of a different kind than what we saw in that earlier case.”

Stiffer punishment

Sarver released a statement after the punishment was handed down and said he disagreed with some of the particulars of the NBA report but wanted to apologize for his words and actions that offended employees.

Silver, speaking to reporters after the league’s Board of Governors meetings concluded on Wednesday, indicated that Sarver’s punishment could have been stiffer had investigators not determined that his use of slurs was not motivated by racial or gender-based animus.

“It was relevant,” Silver said of the committee’s conclusion. “I think if they had made findings that, in fact, his conduct was motivated by racial animus, absolutely that would have had an impact on the ultimate outcome here. But that’s not what they found.” –

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