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Suspended Sarver says he is starting process to sell Suns, Mercury

Kurt Helin joins Brother from Another to discuss Robert Sarver selling the Phoenix Suns and Mercury and explains why Sarver's punishment is not that stiff because of the payout he will receive from selling both teams.

In the wake of a powerful backlash over what was seen as a light punishment for Suns owner Robert Sarver after nearly 18 years of racist and misogynistic behavior as a team owner, Sarver announced he was starting the process to sell the NBA’s Suns and WNBA’s Mercury.

“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness,” Sarver said in his statement. “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.”

This will not be an immediate process, it will take months, but there is no shortage of potential ownership groups interested in getting into the NBA business. Phoenix is considered a strong market and potential free agent destination in a warm-weather city — for an owner willing to spend. This could be a powerhouse franchise.
“I fully support the decision by Robert Sarver to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “This is the right next step for the organization and community.”

Following the NBA’s investigation into Sarver’s running of the Suns, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave him a one-year suspension and fined him $10 million (the maximum fine allowed under NBA bylaws). Silver took heat for the light punishment — heat he took on behalf of the other owners, who would not let him push harder on a suspension — but he also understood public and sponsor pressure was always the only path to removing Sarver.

That pressure came. Big-name players — LeBron James, Chris Paul, Draymond Green — called for stiffer punishment, players union executive director Tamika Tremaglio called for a lifetime ban, the team’s second-largest shareholder called for Sarver to step away, PayPal said it would not renew its team jersey sponsorship next summer if Sarver were still involved with the team, and there was a concern within the league that other sponsors would start pull away from Phoenix as well is Sarver returned.

“We thank Mr. Sarver for making a swift decision that was in the best interest of our sports community,” players union president CJ McCollum said in a statement.

“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.

There was concern in league circles that a harsher punishment from Silver could have led to Sarver to play the victim (which he kind of did in his statement) and take the league to court. But he ultimately decided to take the league off the hook — and take the cash.

Sarver purchased the Suns in 2004 for a then-record $401 million, but the sale price for the franchise now will exceed $2 billion.

Saver’s early years as an owner were during the Mike D’Anton/Steve Nash “seven seconds or less” Suns that helped revolutionize how the NBA game is played. However, Sarver was notoriously a penny pincher with the franchise, and the Suns missed the playoffs 10 years in a row before a sharp turnaround the past two seasons under GM James Jones, coach Monty Williams, and players Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Suns enter this season as title contenders in a deep West.