NBA’s Discrimination Investigation into Phoenix Sun and Phoenix Mercury Owner Robert Sarver

Investigation Reveals Racial and Sexual Discrimination

The NBA’s discrimination investigation examined the 18 year time period while Robert Sarver was Managing Partner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

Details of the NBA’s Discrimination Investigation

The independent investigation was comprehensive. In fact, it gathered information from 320 interviews of employees who worked for the NBA during the past 18 years. In addition, investigators examined more than 80,000 documents including emails, text messages and videos.

The final report concluded that Mr. Sarver engaged in:

  • Conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards, as reflected in team and League rules and policies
  • Racially insensitive language
  • Unequal treatment of female employees
  • Sexually related statements and behavior
  • Harsh treatment (yelling and cursing) that on occasion constituted bullying

To Mr. Sarver’s credit, he had also made efforts personally and professionally to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. This was in regard to hiring practices and contributions to social and racial causes. As a result, the investigation did not find that Sarver’s actions were motivated by racial or gender-based hostility. In addition, the majority of the Suns employees who had engaged in misconduct were former employees. Since July 2021, a newly hired Human Resources executive had implemented a number of positive workplace changes, including:

  • An updated respect in the workplace policy
  • A confidential hotline to report misconduct
  • An investigation response team to conduct internal investigations
  • Additional key policies in workplace training
  • New parental leave policy

The NBA took disciplinary action toward Mr. Sarver, which included suspending him for one year and fining him $10 million.

As an employer, do you have questions about implementing work policies that prohibit discrimination or unacceptable workplace practices?

If you have questions or concerns, it is wise to get a legal opinion. You can consult with our attorneys at Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. We are glad to provide you with experienced legal guidance. Call (718) 275-6500 to arrange an appointment.