Phoenix Suns vice chairman and minority owner Jam Najafi, the team’s second largest shareholder, called for resignation majority owner Robert Sarver. Sarver was recently suspended for one year and fined $10 million by the NBA after completing an investigation into his inappropriate workplace behavior. The investigation is based on an ESPN article written last year that details extensive list of accusations v. Sarver for inappropriate comments and behavior in the workplace. It is clear that Sarver’s punishment in the league was not severe enough in Najafi’s eyes.
Such behavior by any CEO, CEO, president, teacher, coach, or any other leader requires immediate dismissal. The fact that Robert Sarver “owns” the team does not give him the right to treat others differently than any other leader. The fact that someone would find him fit to lead because of this “ownership” stance means forgetting that NBA teams belong to the communities they serve.
Team investors are just temporary managers. If we, as sports leaders, do not hold ourselves to the same standards, then how can we expect a functioning society with integrity and respect at every level? We owe it to you: employees, players, partners and your families to provide the same supportive work environment that we demand from any other business.
I cannot rationally sit back and let our children and future generations of fans think that such behavior is acceptable because of wealth and privilege. Therefore, in keeping with my commitment to help eradicate all forms of racism, sexism and bias, as vice chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver.
Najafi is not the first to speak out against Sarver, as a punishment was handed down earlier this week. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Suns defenseman Chris Paulcondemning Sarver’s behavior and the league’s attitude towards him.
“Read the stories about Sarver several times. Gotta be honest…Our league definitely got it wrong,” James tweeted. “I don’t need to explain why. You all read stories and decide for yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no place for that kind of behavior in this league. league, and I deeply respect our leadership. But this is wrong. Misogyny, sexism and racism have no place in any workplace. It doesn’t matter if you own a team or play for a team. We keep our league. as an example of our values, and it’s not.”
In addition, PayPal, the Suns jersey sponsor, said it would not renew with the Suns after the upcoming season if Sarver remained with the team.
“PayPal is a value-driven company and has a long history of fighting racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination,” PayPal CEO and President Dan Shulman said in a statement. “We have reviewed the report of an independent NBA investigation into Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and concluded that his behavior is unacceptable and contrary to our values…Robert Sarver remains associated with the Suns organization after serving his sentence.”
In this situation, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he has no right to take the Suns away from Sarver, but if enough players, executives and corporations speak up and threaten to take their business out of touch with the Suns, as PayPal did, perhaps the league position will change.