Phoenix Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi calls for Robert Sarver to resign

Phoenix Suns vice president and minority owner Jahm Najafi, the team’s second largest shareholder, called for the resignation of majority owner Robert Sarver in an open letter to team employees released Thursday night, saying he there should be “zero tolerance” for lewd, misogynistic and racist behavior in any workplace.

Sarver was banned from the NBA for a year and fined $10 million after the NBA on Tuesday released the findings of a 10-month independent investigation into allegations of workplace abuse during the Sarver’s tenure as the Suns’ managing partner that spanned nearly two decades.

Najafi, who has criticized Sarver since the allegations were first reported by ESPN in November, is one of three Suns vice presidents, with several other minority investors also in the ownership group.

“Similar conduct by any CEO, executive director, president, teacher, coach or other managerial position would warrant immediate dismissal,” Najafi wrote in the letter. “The fact that Robert Sarver ‘owns’ the team does not give him the right to treat others any differently than any other leader. The fact that anyone who would find him fit to lead because of this ‘ownership’ position forgets that teams of the NBA belong to the communities they serve.

“Team investors are only temporary stewards. If we as sports leaders are not held to the same standards, how can we expect a functioning society with integrity and respect at all levels? owe: employees, players, partners, and your families to provide the same positive work environment that we would require of any other company.

“I cannot, with good judgment, sit back and let our children and future generations of fans think that this behavior is condoned because of wealth and privilege. Therefore, in keeping with my commitment to help eradicate all form of racism, sexism and prejudice, as Vice President of the Phoenix Suns, I call for the resignation of Robert Sarver.”

Among the litany of allegations substantiated by the investigation by law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, it was found that Sarver had, on at least five occasions, repeated the N-word while recounting the statements of others — “four of those after being told by black and white subordinates that he should not use the word, even in repetition of another,” according to the report. The investigation also revealed “cases of unfair conduct towards female employees”, including “gender-related comments” and inappropriate comments about the appearance of employees.

Najafi went on to write that while he has no interest in becoming the Suns’ managing partner, “I will work tirelessly to ensure that the next team steward treats all stakeholders with dignity, professionalism and respect.”

Najafi released a statement in November 2021, hours after ESPN’s investigation was published, writing, in part, “Team investors are just temporary stewards of this treasury. That’s our job in as stewards to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and equally.”

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Suns point guard Chris Paul also expressed disappointment at the NBA’s punishment of Sarver, with Paul writing in a tweet: “I am of the opinion that the penalties didn’t really respond to what we can all agree was atrocious behavior.”

Najafi’s letter was published the same day. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and some city council members released a statement saying they were “appalled by the actions” detailed in the Sarver report.

“It is unacceptable that the leadership of the organization be associated in any way with the despicable actions detailed in the report,” the statement said. “We are also concerned about a culture that would allow these actions to happen again and again, with — at most — ineffective disciplinary action.”

In the statement, Gallego added, “We have instructed city staff to investigate any actions that we, as leaders of the City of Phoenix, may take in light of the details substantiated in the report.”

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