LeBron James calls for Suns owner Robert Sarver's removal from NBA: 'Our league definitely got this wrong'

·Writer
·5 min read

The NBA announced its discipline of Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver on Tuesday, fining the billionaire $10 million and suspending him from all league functions for one year. While those are stiff penalties by most standards, many felt the league didn't go far enough.

That group now includes LeBron James.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar tweeted his displeasure that Sarver was allowed to maintain ownership of the Suns despite the 18 years of workplace misconduct and sporadic racial slurs detailed in the NBA's 43-page report on the allegations.

James' full message:

Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself. I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this aint it.

Per the NBA's report, the league's investigation determined that Sarver used the N-word at least five times while repeating or purporting to repeat what a Black person said, regularly made inappropriately sexual and vulgar jokes in the workplace, demeaned female employees and frequently had his conduct reach the point of bullying.

In NBA history, Sarver's punishment is second only to the discipline of Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who was quickly and loudly ejected from the league after his racist comments were recorded and made public in 2014.

Chris Paul speaks out against Robert Sarver

A couple hours later, Phoenix Suns star and James' close friend Chris Paul also spoke out against Sarver, saying his punishment wasn't enough to address the issues in the Suns organization.

Paul, a former president of the National Basketball Players Association, didn't say Sarver should be forced to sell his team like James, but said Sarver's behavior toward women must not be repeated.

NBPA head not happy with Robert Sarver punishment either

James and Paul's sentiments were consistent with the head of their union, as NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio released a statement the same day saying there should be no place for Sarver in the league:

Mr. Sarver's reported actions and conduct are horrible and have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter.

Additionally, the investigation confirmed that Mr. Sarver's deplorable behavior did not just come to light in November 2021. In fact, the report indicated Mr Sarver's long history of inappropriate conduct, including racial and gender insensitivity, misogyny and harassment. All issues that led to a toxic work environment for well over a decade.

I have made my position known to Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver explains Robert Sarver discipline

Hours before James posted his tweet, NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a news conference to explain how the league made its decision on Sarver.

Calling Sarver's conduct "indefensible" and apologizing to the current and former employees who bore the brunt of it, Silver alluded to even more information regarding the allegations he was unable to make public due to confidentiality agreements with witnesses.

However, when asked why Sarver wasn't banned for life from the NBA like Sterling was, Silver said the two situations weren't comparable enough for the precedent to apply:

"The situations were dramatically different. I think what we saw in the case of Donald Sterling was blatant racist conduct directed at a select group of people. While, it’s difficult to know what is in someone’s heart or in their mind, we heard those words and then there was a follow-up from the league office and that became public as well in terms of what Mr. Sterling even subsequently said about his actions.

"In the case of Robert Sarver, we're looking at the totality of circumstances over an 18-year period in which he's owned these teams. Ultimately, I made a judgment that in the circumstances in which he had used that language and that behavior while, as I said it was indefensible, it’s not strong enough. It’s beyond the pale in every possible way to use language and behave that way, but that it was was wholly of a different kind than what we saw in that earlier case."

Silver also acknowledged that Sarver's status as a franchise owner made disciplining him different than disciplining any league employee. He also noted the large reputational damage Sarver has suffered as a result of the scandal.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 13: Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Mercury defeated the Sky 91-86 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Robert Sarver is still owner of the Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)