Sarver Selling the Suns

Making the NBA a “league committed to progress”

Photo courtesy Markus Spiske,

Jonas Weinmann, Sports Editor

Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, announced on September 21 plans to sell both teams, ending an 18-year period of ownership. 

Sarver has authority as managing partner to sell the teams in full even though he is not the only owner. His choice to sell these valuable franchises – according to Forbes, the Suns are valued at $2.7 billion –  stems from the findings of an investigation conducted by the NBA that found Sarver to have “repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others” on at least 5 occasions. The NBA’s investigation also found that Sarver “made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women,” and “engaged in demeaning and harsh treatment of employees, including yelling and cursing at them.” The results of the investigation led to a $10 million fine, the maximum amount, and banned Sarver from being engaged with the Suns in any facility for a year.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, “The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing. We believe the outcome is the right one, taking into account all the facts, circumstances and context brought to light by the comprehensive investigation of this 18-year period and our commitment to upholding proper standards in NBA workplaces.”

The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing.

— Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner

Influential NBA players such as Lebron James (LA Lakers), Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns), and Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) did not agree with the league punishment believing it to be too lenient. Green called for a vote of NBA owners to remove Sarver. One-third of owners need to vote to remove an owner for any reason. Green questioned why Donald Sterling, former Los Angeles Clippers owner, can be banned for life from the NBA for making racist remarks but not Sarver. On his Podcast, The Draymond Green Show, Green said, “[Sarver] gets to just come back in the fold as if he’s still representing us? And as if he’s a part of us? That can’t be so. Because for us, especially as African Americans, I’m uncomfortable, I’m very uncomfortable.”

Pressure from players, calls from minority owners for Sarver to resign, and threats from sponsors of the Suns, such as PayPal, to not renew their partnership if Sarver continued to be the owner, were all factors that led to Sarver’s decision to sell the team.

“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness,” said Sarver in a statement to the press on September 21st. “I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.” He cited cancel culture as part of what led to his decision to sell both teams. He said, “In our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible — that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury”.

Reactions to this announcement were overwhelmingly positive. Silver said that he fully supports Sarver’s decision, saying “it is the right next step for the organization and community.” CJ McCullum, the NBPA’s (National Basketball Players Association) president, added “We thank Mr. Sarver for making a swift decision that was in the best interest of our sports community.” James tweeted out “I’m so proud to be a part of a league committed to progress!” in response to the news.

“I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world,” said Sarver in his statement. “I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone. In the meantime, I will continue to work on becoming a better person, and continuing to support the community in meaningful ways.”

It is rare for NBA teams to be up for sale. The last team to be sold, the Minnesota Timberwolves, was in 2021. The team was sold for $1.5 billion to Marc Lore (CEO of and Alex Rodriguez (retired baseball player). Once bids are in and each prospective owner goes through a rigorous vetting process, a committee of current NBA owners will make the final decision.