Report: Phoenix Suns owner allegedly made racist comments

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Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents during his 17-year tenure as the team’s owner, according to a report published Thursday by ESPN.

ESPN said it talked to dozens of current and former team employees for the story, including some who detailed inappropriate behavior by Sarver. Most of the allegations are from anonymous sources but a few are on the record.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the Suns “vehemently rejected the claims made” in the ESPN article. The NBA later announced it would launch an investigation into the “extremely serious” allegations raised in the story.

The Suns had previously issued a preemptive statement on Oct. 22, calling any forthcoming allegations “completely baseless claims” and saying that “documentary evidence in our possession and eyewitness accounts directly contradict the [ESPN] reporter’s accusations, and we are preparing our response to his questions.”

Among the allegations: Former Suns coach Earl Watson said Sarver was upset that Golden State forward Draymond Green used the N-word during a game in 2016 and that the owner repeated the N-word several times when voicing his displeasure. Watson said he told Sarver that he can’t use that word.

Watson was the Suns’ coach for all or part of three seasons before being fired three games into the 2017-18 season.

The report also details a story about Sarver passing around a picture of his wife in a Suns bikini to employees. The report says more than a dozen employees also said Sarver had a history of “making lewd comments in all-staff meetings.”

In ESPN’s report, Sarver denied or disputed most of the allegations through his legal team.

Sarver has owned the Suns since 2004. The 59-year-old Phoenix businessman also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

The Suns are coming off one of the most successful seasons in their history, making the NBA Finals with stars Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton before losing in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns have made the Finals three times, in 1976, 1993 and 2021, but have never won a championship.

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