Phoenix Suns vice president Jahm Najafi on Thursday called on team owner Robert Sarver to resign, saying there should be “zero tolerance” for lewd, misogynistic and racist behavior in any workplace.
Sarver was suspended for one year and fined $10 million by the NBA on Tuesday, after a 10-month investigation found the Suns owner had used racist language, made crude and sexually suggestive comments to employees and had bullying tendencies.
“I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans to believe that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege,” Najafi wrote in a letter released through a public relations firm. “Therefore, consistent with my commitment to help eradicate all forms of racism, sexism and bias, as vice president of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver.”
Najafi has been critical of Sarver throughout this saga, which broke when ESPN released a story in November detailing widespread allegations of wrongdoing by Sarver. That reporting prompted the NBA to launch an investigation. Najafi is one of three vice-chairmen of the Suns, with several other minority investors also part of the ownership group.
Once the investigation was concluded, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver decided a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine were appropriate punishments. He said Wednesday that a key finding by outside investigators — that while Sarver “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns,” investigators made “no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with intent of degrading or degrading” – probably spared him a much harsher punishment.
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Suns guard Chris Paul later released statements on social media saying the NBA’s sanctions against Sarver did not go far enough.
Najafi agreed. In his letter, he also said he has “no interest” in becoming a managing partner.
“Similar conduct by any executive director, chief executive officer, president, teacher, coach or other leadership position would warrant immediate termination,” he said in the letter released through public relations firm LAVIDGE. “The fact that Robert Sarver ‘owns’ the team does not give him license to treat others differently than any other manager. The fact that someone would find him fit to lead because of this ‘ownership position’ forgets that NBA teams belong to the communities they serve.”
Najafi’s letter was released on the same day Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and some of the city’s council members has issued a statement said they were “appalled by the actions” described in the Sarver report.
“It is unacceptable that the organization’s leadership is in any way associated with the heinous acts described in the report,” the statement said. “We are equally concerned about a culture that will enable these actions to occur again and again, with – at most – ineffective disciplinary measures.”