Shock. Disbelief. Disappointment.
Unacceptable. Tough. Disgusted.
From General Manager James Jones to head coach Monty Williams, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, the Phoenix Suns took the opportunity at Monday’s media day to voice their concerns and issues with the findings from the 10-month investigation into Robert Sarver’s 18-year tenure as the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns.
“There was a bit of shock,” Williams said. “A moment where I was in disbelief. When you see the bullet points and then when you go through it, you start to think about how these things impacted people, how is it going to impact our team, the organization, the community?”
The NBA suspended Sarver, also majority owner of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, for one year from any activities involving both teams and fined him $10 million for ”workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies” found in the investigation.
“I think when you look at the findings and this process that we’ve been through, you realize we just did not live up to a standard of excellence,” Jones said. “Those behaviors, not just in sport, but just in society in general, those are behaviors that are unacceptable and we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and we have to protect those who can’t protect themselves.”
The results of the investigation concluded Sarver used the N-word multiple times, made inappropriate comments towards women in the workplace and in essence bullied employees in a demeaning fashion.
“It’s just an unacceptable action,” Ayton said. “And I’ll just leave it as that.”
Suns big Dario Saric said he was in Croatia when contacted by the coaches about the investigation findings.
They didn’t set well with him at all.
“There is no place for discrimination on any level in our league, in our sport, a global sport,” he said.
Devin Booker, who has known Sarver longer than any player on the team, after the Suns made him a lottery pick in the 2015 draft, offered a personal perspective on how he felt about the findings of the investigation.
“It was tough,” Booker said. “It’s tough for me because that’s not the Robert Sarver that I know. It’s not the Robert Sarver that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms, but at the same time, I’m not insensitive to everybody that is involved in this situation. I understand everybody’s experience with other people are always going to be different, but it’s tough for me because it’s not the person that I know.”
Jones said Sarver choosing to sell the franchise was the “best outcome for everyone involved,” from the players, staff and “everyone that was impacted” on multiple levels.
“It brings some closure to a long period of discomfort and uneasiness, but it also gives us a pivot point to continue to focus on raising the standards of our organization and leading by example,” he said.
When ESPN published a report on Nov. 4 detailing allegations that Sarver created a “toxic” work environment, the Suns acknowledged the situation, but focused on the 2021-22 season.
They proceeded to win a franchise-record 64 games in the regular season in earning the top overall seed in the playoffs.
Now those allegations are now facts according to the investigation, which included interviews with more than 300 current and former employees.
So this could prove to be a distraction this season, but Booker said Sarver choosing to sell the team may change that.
“I think we can move forward and focus on the goal that’s at hand and that’s playing basketball,” Booker said.
Still, that doesn’t take steam out of what Sarver did as a team owner, particularly his usage of the N-word as most of Phoenix’s players are Black or of a mixed race.
When looking into the investigation, a chunk of Sarver’s usage of the word came out of a conversation he had back in 2016 with then head coach Earl Watson.
“I don’t like it, I never have, especially when I was younger and I learned what that word meant,” Williams said. “I learned how demeaning it was towards, humanity, not just black folks. When I saw the report, I was not happy about it. Quite frankly, disgusted. It’s not a word you repeat. Anytime.”
Sarver repeated the N-word in asking Watson why Warriors All-Star Draymond Green, who is Black, was saying the racist word in a game but he can’t.
“At the same time, I know that there’s a different generation of young people that are 20, 30 years younger than I am that have a different perspective about that word,” said Williams, who is 50. “It’s become a socially accepted word. I don’t think that’s something we should bow down to and when you run into situations like this, you realize why.”
Paul first took to social media two weeks ago to express his feelings about the Sarver investigation, tweeting he was “horrified and disappointed” with the results of it.
On Monday, Paul extended his thoughts and prayers to those impacted by Sarver’s actions.
“Stuff going on the workplace is really unfortunate,” Paul said.
Paul confirmed he did speak with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver about the results of the investigation. Having experienced a similar situation with Donald Sterling when the NBA banned the former Clippers owner for life after making racist remarks in 2014, Paul has a perspective no one else on the team does.
That 2013-14 Clippers team considered not playing in the playoffs and later had a demonstration in protesting Sterling.
Paul said these 2022-23 Suns hadn’t discussing even the idea of doing something similar.
“We were in the middle of a playoff series, I was a lot younger at the time,” Paul said. “This is closer to the summer and guys are with their families and things like that. It’s a different situation and I think (Monday night) will be the first time our team actually gets a chance to all be together before we start tomorrow.”
The Suns had a scheduled 5 p.m. team meeting Monday and will start training camp Tuesday at the team’s practice facility.