With the NBA investigating the alleged toxic workplace culture of the Phoenix Suns under CEO Robert Sarver, Warriors forward Draymond Green has a simple request:
Treat those at the top of a franchise as you would those on the court.
“I don’t know where the investigation starts. I don’t know where it ends. I don’t know who you talk to; that’s none of my business,” Green said Friday after shootaround at Chase Center. “But what I do hope is that there aren’t any double standards in this league, and the same thing that applies to us players should also apply to everybody.
On the fairness meter, Draymond’s plea is at 100. And if there is an undercurrent of skepticism, it is warranted. Aside for former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, whose long history of racism finally exceeded the league’s tolerance and warranted a lifetime ban in 2014, punishment to team governors rarely goes beyond a fine.
For example, Mavericks governor Mark Cuban was fined $500,000 in March 2020 for public criticism and displaying detrimental conduct toward officials. Cuban, according to the NBA, unleashed comments that “were highly critical, personal and demeaning to the league and its officiating staff.”
Though Cuban has paid more than $3 million in fines, only twice was he suspended – both times by then-commissioner David Stern more than 20 years ago. Cuban is a regular presence at all Mavericks games.
Discipline issued to players often results in fines and suspension, as Green himself has experienced. His suspension for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals stipulated that he was not allowed to be inside Oracle Arena during the game.
That memory still triggers Draymond, which further explains his sensitivity on the issue.
“I’m not an investigator, so I don’t really know what they need to look into,” he said, referring to scrutiny being faced by Sarver and the Suns. “I don’t even know how you start the investigation. It’s not really my field of expertise.
“But I do wonder if I was getting investigated for something, would I still be able to be around the team? Would I still be able to freely come to the games? Would I still be able to freely come to practice?
“I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question, because I’ve never been in a situation here where someone is getting investigated for something like that. But I do know what I think, and I’m not sure I’d be sitting here after finishing shootaround talking to you if I was being investigated.”
Draymond is not the only player keeping an eye on what happens in Phoenix. Everyone affiliated with the NBA, every employee at every level, is watching. Players have whispered for years about the disparate punishment given to players and top executives.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has worked very hard to become a kinder and more tolerant presence than was Stern, who retired three months before Sterling was ousted – though Stern still was a presence in league offices.
Though he praised Silver and the league for dumping Sterling, Stern took no action – no investigation whatsoever – despite Sterling’s well-known bigotry. Many former Clippers employees, including Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, complained about the Clippers’ culture under Sterling, who also lost a $2.7 million discrimination lawsuit.
Not once under Stern’s dictatorial leadership was Sterling fined or suspended. Three months later, Silver was listening to the players, putting his finger to the wind and swinging the hammer that nailed Sterling. Every player in the league applauded, and no owner shed a tear.
So now we have another NBA top executive, Sarver, facing similar allegations about racism and misogyny and a generally toxic workplace, as diligently reported by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.
The league’s investigators on the clock, and so is Silver. Draymond Green is speaking for hundreds of players curious to see what comes of this matter.
“I just hope there aren’t any double standards, just because there is a governor of a team,” he said. “We’re still all a part of this league. I just hope that the same standards that we have when it comes to players, we also have when it comes to everybody that’s a part of this league.”