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Suns owner Robert Sarver accused of racism, sexism, verbal abuse in bomb report

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Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver made possessive, misogynistic comments to female subordinates—once asking “Do I own you?” — and frequently used the N-word, according to a bombshell report containing accusations of racism and sexism from more than 70 current and former employees.

“The level of misogyny and racism is unimaginable,” a Suns co-owner told ESPN of Sarver. “It’s embarrassing as an owner.”

“As the commissioner comes in and investigates to see what’s going on in Phoenix,” a current employee told ESPN, “[he] would be upset.’

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver (pictured) made possessive, misogynistic comments to female subordinates — once asking “Do I own you?” — and often used the N-word, according to a bombshell report detailing accusations of racism and sexism from more than 70 current and former employees

The ESPN report has been expected since Oct. 22, when podcaster Jordan Schultz teased its publication on Twitter. Sarver has denied or disputed nearly all of the claims, both prior to the publication of the article and in the article itself.

Sarver was accused by former Suns coach Earl Watson of using the N-word to complain in 2016 that Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green had used the term on the court.

“You can’t say that,” said Watson, who is Hispanic and African-American.

‘Why?’ asked Sarver. ‘Draymond Green Says’ [n-word].’

“You can’t fucking say that,” Watson repeated.

Sarver admits to using the n-word years earlier.

“On one occasion, a player used the n-word to describe the importance of each other’s backs,” Sarver told ESPN through his lawyers. ‘I responded by saying, ‘I wouldn’t say a n***a, I’d say we’re in the foxhole together.’

“A short time later, an assistant coach came up to me and told me not to say the word, even if I was quoting someone else. I immediately apologized and never said it again. The n-word has never been part of my vocabulary.’

Sarver also disputed having that alleged conversation with Watson, who now works as an assistant coach for Toronto Raptors after being fired from Phoenix in 2017.

“Let me be clear: I never suggested that night (or ever) that I should be able to say the n-word because a player or a black is using it,” Saver said through his lawyers.

At least six Suns employees accused Sarver of using the n-word when quoting African Americans.

‘You’re like,’ ‘Ho! Robert, you can’t do that,” said a former director.

Another African-American basketball operations staffer said he’s heard Sarver use the n-word several times.

In 2013, Sarver is said to have used the n-word to explain why he filled a head coach position with Lindsey Hunter, who is black, instead of Dan Majerle, who is white.

‘This [N-words] need [N-word]Sarver said to the staffer.

Nearly a dozen of the former employees who spoke to ESPN, mostly on condition of anonymity, say they have sought professional help for problems such as anxiety and sleep loss due to the work conditions, which were exacerbated by Sarver’s frequent verbal abuse.

“When I went to the psychologist, I cried a bucket of tears,” an executive told ESPN. “And so it is with many of us. It’s just sad.’

Workers were reportedly discouraged from making complaints to human resources. Several were fired after filing complaints and were told they no longer fit the organization, according to ESPN.

Women, in particular, felt targeted by Sarver, who is accused not only of making sexist statements, but also such rude behavior by male employees.

“It breaks you,” said a female ex-employee. “I’m hard to break, and it broke me.”

“It’s ruined my life,” said another. “I considered suicide.”

“I think as women, when we start exercising, we unfortunately come to terms with the fact that at some point we’re going to be sexually harassed,” a former female marketing executive told ESPN. “But the worst thing for me was the verbal abuse and the feeling like I wasn’t human.”

After Sarver allegedly called a female employee into crying in 2011, Sarver is said to have asked, ‘Why do you women cry so much here?’

Sarver’s lawyers denied this claim, saying he “doesn’t remember a single case where an employee has ever cried for him.”

After the alleged incident, Sarver asked female Suns employees to have lunch with employees at his bank, in what was seen as an effort to strengthen his female workforce at the NBA club.

“So humiliating,” said a former female co-worker at the arranged lunch.

Saver’s lawyers said those networking lunches between the bank and the team are “encouraged for men and women.”

A female marketing employee told ESPN that Saver was making strange, possessive comments about employees.

“Do I own you?” Sarver would have asked. “Are you one of mine?”

“He makes you feel like you belong to him,” the employee said.

The culture in the office wasn’t much better, according to the report.

Another female employee said she was attacked by a male colleague outside the office, and when colleagues complained to HR, the club’s solution was to move her desk about 3 meters from his.

“I couldn’t escape,” she told ESPN. ‘It was a joke. An absolute joke.’

The male employee was never investigated, but according to the Suns, it was because both employees refused to talk to HR.

In addition, the Suns denied telling “both employees” to “move” [their] desk” to solve the domestic problem they had.”

ESPN reports that three employees contradicted the team’s denial.

Another female ex-employee said a Suns executive drunkenly asked how many co-workers she’d slept with and inquired specifically about a co-worker’s penis.

‘It was terrible because I hadn’t had sexual interactions with anyone’ [the staff], so that was really weird,” she told ESPN. ‘And [it] also made me uncomfortable because my VP asks me about my sexual history with other co-workers? That was almost normal.’

Most, but not all, former employees said they were too afraid to take legal action.

“In the end, I was too scared and too exhausted to chase it,” a former female marketing executive told ESPN. “I even got an offer from my lawyer to do the whole pro bono thing, but I was so devastated by then. I wasn’t sleeping or eating or functioning well so I felt it was easier to move on and take the offer. I’m sorry I didn’t pursue it.’

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