Sarver’s actions were ‘dramatically different’ from Sterling, NBA commissioner says

Adam Silver's news conference comes one day after the league fined Sarver $10 million and placed him on a one-year suspension.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 2:14 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held his first news conference since the league placed Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver under a one-year suspension. Silver took questions from reporters, addressing the league’s report that came nearly a full year since it had asked for an investigation into allegations of sexism, racism, and creating a hostile working environment.

“I was in disbelief,” said Silver. “I was saddened by it. Disheartened.”

Suns point guard Chris Paul reacted to the news of the report and called for harsher punishments for Sarver on Wednesday evening. “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,” Paul tweeted. “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.”

Some of the league’s findings included “repeated or purported to repeat[ing] the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns.” Other allegations included using demeaning language to several female employees, making off-color comments and jokes about sex, and yelling and cursing at employees in what would be considered bullying.

Silver was asked about the similarities between this case and that of Donald Sterling. Sterling was banned for life by Silver in 2014 following recorded conversations showing him making racist comments. In that instance, Sterling was fined $2.5 million, the largest allowable figure.

“I think there was a realism to it. You know, that it exists when you have audio of something that [...] put everyone, in essence, in the same position that I was in,” said Silver. “We were all looking at the same record.”

This case, Silver says, is different. “It’s not that one was captured and the other one isn’t.” Silver said. “What is lost, though, in the differentiating between the facts in this situation is the context.” While the conduct is “indefensible,” Silver felt like the NBA dealt with it in an appropriate manner.

In this case, Sarver acknowledges his behavior. Silver also says he knows more about the context of the statements and allegations than what the public currently knows. The NBA report largely acknowledges major HR changes that were made in recent years by the Suns organization. And Silver adds that he believes that Sarver has “evolved as a person” during his ownership of the team, an 18-year period.

“I would like to think that all of us would want to be judged by the totality of everything they’ve done. Good and bad,” said Silver. “While there were these terrible things, there were also many, many people who had very positive things to say about him.”