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The NBA Is Running From Responsibility With Its Robert Sarver Decision

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The NBA saga of Robert Sarver has become a masterclass in cognitive dissonance.

In response to an investigation detailing an 18-year practice of misogyny, sexism and abuse within the Phoenix Suns franchise leaked from Gov. Robert Sarver, Commissioner Adam Silver described himself on Wednesday equally saddened and discouraged, calling Sarver’s behavior “unjustified” and “beyond decency”. But unlike the case with Donald Sterling in 2014, Silver said the possibility of Sarver being kicked out of the league was never mentioned. “The process of removing it was not discussed,” Silver said at a press conference.

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Forcing Sarver to sell the team would likely mean a legal battle that would lead to extensive scrutiny of league documents and emails that could reveal another governor’s indiscretion. This would mean a fight; this meant the risk of shocks. But the NBA didn’t have the moral courage or resilience of the Suns employees who stood up to their billionaire boss.

So the league did what you do when you know what to do but don’t want to do it: they did it half way. One year suspension, $10 million fine, and mandatory classes on how not to say the N-word. [losing] ownership, and I wouldn’t want to create it to invite people to go straight for it,” Silver said. But this is a precedent he has set. Follow Sarver’s rules on abuse and you’ll only get a slap in the face. Just don’t embarrass us like Sterling did.

With training camp starting next week, the NBA hopes all of this will go away. But will it? LeBron James and Chris Paul spoke out against Sarver’s leniency. So did Reverend Al Sharpton and Suns minority owner Jam Najafi. Tamika Tremalho, Executive Director The NBPA called Sarver’s behavior appalling, saying he “has no place in our sport or in any workplace for that matter.” PayPal has stated that it will not renew its sponsorship with the Suns if Sarver remains in place.

None of this was surprising. What was odd was Silver’s attempt to play the role of Big Bad Commish, protecting the interests of the owners while holding on to the idea that the NBA did the right thing. At his press conference, Silver told the media – and possibly himself – about Sarver’s chances of redemption.

“I accept and understand that some people do not agree with the final consequences for Mr. Sarver, and I also hope that Mr. Sarver uses this time to not only express his remorse, but also demonstrate it,” Silver said. . “Just to be clear, he is banned from doing anything in the NBA or WNBA, but he is not judged in terms of his ability to do good things in a year out of the league, or the rest of his life, for it. matter.”

One reason for Silver’s decision is the “cumulative” nature of Sarver’s “record” in social justice. “Despite these terrible things, there were also many, many people who had very good things to say about him during this process,” Silver said.

You can find said track record in an email from his lawyer attached to the investigation, hanging at the bottom of the damaging evidence. Or in the denials that follow virtually every claim in the original ESPN report, many of which the investigation found to be true. This includes hiring a staff of 55 percent people of color, sitting on the National Police Foundation’s Council on Police Reform and Racial Council, speaking out publicly against a repressive immigration law in 2010, and philanthropy through the Suns and its foundation.

Indeed, it’s hard to match this version of Sarver with someone who repeatedly used the N-word despite being told he shouldn’t use it in any context and told the story at a business meeting last year about blowjobs. And that is precisely the point.

Robert Sarver is not a caricatured racist like Donald Sterling. He is a modern fanatic, better at hiding his feelings. He stands for the right things, he hires the right people. When shit hits the fan, a black executive like James Jones can be a reliable character witness. Even as the evidence piled up, Sarver defended himself with the fervor and fury of a man who had been wrongly accused. As Love sports when he doesn’t love you back: Dilemmas of the Modern Fan As his chapter on troubled owners reminds us, Sterling was also quick to defend himself when called a racist, pointing to the salary he paid Black Clippers players: “I support them and give them food, clothes, cars and houses.”

Even his apology on Tuesday following the investigation was inconsistent, starting with “good leadership requires accountability” as if he was participating in a joke, taking “full responsibility” for what he did while “disagreeing” .[ing] with some details of the NBA report.”

When it comes time for him to shut up and listen, Sarver is on the defensive, because he’s more concerned about being accused of racism than actually being a racist. If Silver wants the league to be on the right side of this divide, he should listen to people who have spent years sometimes a all my life, learning to distinguish between the two.

“This is just a slap in the face and it shows us that the league is not really about diversity, equality or inclusion,” said one former Suns employee. ESPN. “I am grateful to have received confirmation after being told that I am crazy, a bitch and dramatizing. It definitely lets me breathe a little. But I’m angry. The League let us down when they had the opportunity to uphold its values.”

It is worth remembering the chilling lines of another former employee from the original ESPN story: “It ruined my life,” she said. “I thought about suicide.”

Everyone who worked for Sterling knew who he was. But Sarver’s track record, his inconsistent behavior, his attempts to minimize and distract himself, put confusion on top of the pain. A year from now, Suns employees shouldn’t be guinea pigs in his self-improvement project.


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