Suspended Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver plans to sell both professional basketball teams.
Sarver, who purchased the teams in 2004, was punished by the NBA and WNBA when an investigation uncovered racist and sexist workplace misconduct. Sarver was fined a record of $10 million and was given a one-year suspension from the leagues.
"Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together – and strengthened the Phoenix area – through the unifying power of professional men's and women's basketball,” Sarver said in a statement on Wednesday.
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. 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.
“But 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.”
The NBA's investigation found that Sarver used the N-word on multiple occasions and "made many sex-related comments" to workers during his time with the franchises. He also took part in “demeaning and harsh treatment of employees” that “constituted bullying” the league discovered.
“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,” Sarver explained. “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. Thank you for continuing to root for the Suns and the Mercury, embracing the power that sports has to bring us together,” Sarver’s statement concluded.
A similar incident occurred in 2015 when former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sold the team after he was fined $2.5 million and banned from the league for life for making racist remarks.
Sarver bought the Suns for a then-record price of $401 million in 2004 but they are now valued at $1.8 million. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns are considered “an extremely desirable franchise in the marketplace and will have no shortage of high-level ownership candidates.