The Donald Sterling of the Desert

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver had the best month of his tenure with the team this July when a young squad led by Chris Paul clawed their way to the NBA Finals. He is about to have his worst month. According to an extensive report from ESPN, Sarver has frequently exhibited racist and sexist behavior during his tenure, and it has been well-known throughout the organization for years.

“There’s literally nothing you could tell me about him from a misogynistic or race standpoint that would surprise me,” a former Suns executive told ESPN. That’s quite the statement, considering the following allegation:

When the Suns were recruiting free agent LaMarcus Aldridge in the summer of 2015, the team knew that Aldridge had young children in Texas and that playing near them was appealing. During the recruitment, Sarver remarked to two basketball operations staffers that the Suns needed to have local strippers impregnated by NBA players so those players would have children in the Phoenix area and feel obliged to be closer to them, giving the Suns a potential edge in free agency, the now-former staffers said.

Sarver also reportedly likes to use the N-word a lot. After a home loss to the Golden State Warriors in 2016, Sarver repeatedly uttered the slur in the locker room, asking “why does Draymond Green get to run up the court and say [N-word]?” according to former coach Earl Watson. At least six Suns staffers recalled him repeating stories originally told by Black players and “using the same language when retelling it, down to the usage of the N-word,” per ESPN. One high-level executive said that Sarver rationalized the hiring of Lindsey Hunter, who is Black, over Dan Majerle as head coach in 2013 because “These [N-words] need a [N-word].” In a predominantly Black league moving away from the word “owner” because of its obvious connotations, employees recalled Sarver referring to staffers and players as “inventory.”

Staffers also recalled actions from Sarver that could be considered sexual harassment, including claiming his need to wear extra-large condoms, talking about his wife giving him oral sex in all-staff meetings, and asking about players’ sex lives. There appeared to be down-wind affects of the misogyny: One woman who worked in sales claimed a former Suns VP asked her “how many members of her department she had slept with and about a specific coworker’s penis,” according to the report. One woman said that after going to HR after being assaulted by a male co-worker outside the office, the department resolved the issue by moving her from an adjoining desk to one just 10 feet away, a solution she described as “an absolute joke.”

Sarver and his attorneys have denied all wrongdoing, and the NBA has announced an investigation into the allegations. Unfortunately for fans of the league — or those concerned with accountability for extremely wealthy men being aggressively racist — the worst-case scenario for the real-estate magnate is still pretty good. When former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was forced to part with the team in 2012 after a recording emerged of him asking his mistress “not to bring” Black people to the Staples Center, he made $2 billion dollars on the sale.

The Phoenix Suns Owner Is Reportedly Really, Really Racist