Phoenix Suns: Robert Sarver throws a pity party with one foot out the door

Phoenix Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver in 2020 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver in 2020 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

One of the earliest lessons that a child learns in their life is also the hardest for many adults in positions of power to comprehend: actions have consequences. If you make poor choices — particularly, those that impact others — the bill will come due eventually. Finally, it’s time for Phoenix Suns & Mercury Managing Partner Robert Sarver to face the facts.

Findings from a 10-month investigation involving hundreds of interviews concluded that Sarver had a laundry list of workplace complaints due to conduct ranging from racist and misogynistic to outright juvenile. As a result, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed a one-year suspension from all team activity and a $10 million fine. However, when faced with the court of public opinion (including scathing reviews from both myself and one of FanSided’s brightest NBA Experts, Josh Cornelissen), the pressure intensified and Sarver crumbled under its weight.

On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 21, an official statement released by Sarver’s PR team confirmed his intent to sell the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury franchises. However, the near 20-year majority owner of Phoenix’s pro basketball teams used this statement to throw himself a humongous pity party, echoing false sentiments of his positive impact on the organizations while deflecting his own culpability by invoking faith and the current political climate.

*Pause for a looooong sigh*

Even while losing his Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver won’t take accountability.

Boo hoo, the multi-millionaire has to face consequences for his actions. That must be so hard!

The first line of the statement is a direct attempt to qualify his “regret” by stretching the narrative of his influence over both organizations. Then, he invokes his faith to soften the blow and deflect the ramifications of his actions. That’s followed by a shift that effectively blames the country’s political climate for his demise, alluding to ‘cancel-culture’ as a culprit in his sale of the team.

These shameless attempts to shift the blame away from himself only further prove that Robert Sarver has no place in the NBA. This isn’t a man accused of one or two minor episodes — his childish and toxic actions have soiled almost two decades of Phoenix Suns basketball. Every single Suns fan I’ve spoken to has rejoiced in the fact that Sarver is finally on the way out. He was never a positive force within his role from a basketball perspective while his off-court antics caused pain and strife for countless employees. In no way does it make sense for him to represent the league by remaining in one of the coveted ‘Governor’ roles for these illustrious pro basketball franchises.

Quite frankly, the fans of Arizona deserve better. Their commitment to the team despite its woes, many of which could’ve been avoided if not for Sarver’s corner-cutting and penny-pinching, should be honored with organizational leadership that’s more concerned about putting a winning product on the court than upholding racial and gender barriers within the front office.

Taking accountability is challenging — especially when you know that you’re in the wrong. But it’s hard to say whether Sarver genuinely believes anything he’s proclaimed about his own part in the Suns’ downtrodden culture. It’s impossible to accept an apology when the responsible party deflects blame without truly taking accepting their own role in the situation. This statement isn’t about “atonement” or righting his wrongs — it’s about garnering the pity and support of his millionaire business partners and associates who now see him as a liability.

If an entire sports league, including fans, players, coaches and organizations leads, could look at this man and almost unanimously decide that he doesn’t belong, how could people responsible for billion-dollar corporations feel safe about him holding an integral position within their groups? Even now, after he’s lost the war, Sarver is still battling to save face.

One overarching question that I can’t seem to shake looms heavily over this discussion.

Did Commissioner Silver bank on the fact that public backlash from players, minority partners and sponsors would force Sarver to sell the team? There might be legal ramifications to Silver confirming this strategy, so we may never get an answer. It appeared like the league botched this situation with its little suspension and fine.

Next. NBA moved the goalpost for Sarver despite repugnant behavior. dark

But maybe Adam Silver was playing chess while we were playing checkers. Or maybe that would be giving him too much credit. Only time will tell.