An ESPN report alleging multiple incidents of racist and sexist remarks by Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver during his tenure likely will draw comparisons to the situation involving former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the team in 2014 after a recording of racist remarks surfaced.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was just two months into the job when the Sterling controversy blew up, and he acted in fairly short order after an investigation, with support from other owners, banning Sterling from the NBA for life and fining him $2.5 million.
Silver also urged the Board of Governors, made up of team owners or their representatives, to force a sale of the Clippers, which later took place.
Those actions occurred after the NBA launched an investigation into the matter and concluded it was Sterling who could be heard making the remarks on the recording, in which he criticized a woman for being seen in public with minorities, including Magic Johnson, and posting pictures on social media.
Sterling was heard telling the female friend he didn’t want her bringing “minorities” as guests to Clippers games, saying, “it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you’re associating with black people.”
The matter caused a major backlash from NBA players, who called for Sterling to step aside as owner. Chris Paul, now with the Suns, was with the Clippers at the time. Under pressure, advertisers began pulling out of Clippers’ sponsorships.
The ESPN story on Sarver said it had interviewed more than 70 former and current Suns employees, but did not make reference to recordings of Sarver. It accused him of repeatedly using a racial slur in talking about Black people, which Sarver strongly denied, along with other allegations of other racist and sexually inappropriate remarks in front of employees.
At the time, several other NBA owners publicly denounced Sterling.
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver
Sarver issued a statement at the time supporting Silver’s actions:
“I applaud the actions taken today by Commissioner Silver in response to the disturbing comments made by Donald Sterling,” Sarver said in a statement. “Commissioner Silver’s decision upholds the principles of diversity, tolerance and respect for all people that the NBA and Phoenix Suns represent. The Commissioner has my full support.”
The NBA provided a statement to ESPN regarding Sarver, saying “the league has not received a complaint of misconduct at the Suns organization through any of our processes, including our confidential workplace misconduct hotline or other correspondence.”
Throughout the story, Sarver denies allegations, offers reasons why his comments and behavior could be taken out of context or admits to some egregious conduct.
On Thursday afternoon, the Suns and Sarver released additional statements.
“At this point, I would entirely welcome an impartial NBA investigation which may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I’m so very proud,” Sarver said.
Contributing: Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: How Robert Sarver allegations compare to Donald Sterling