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On Wednesday, Robert Sarver has stated he is in the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, only eight days after a one year investigation found multiple instances of Sarver committing racist, misogynistic, and deplorable workplace behavior.
While Sarver will likely receive a hefty payout for the Phoenix franchise’s, it is unclear at this time whom will take over ownership, but if history is any indicator, it will be another man who looks and sounds exactly like Robert Sarver.
As the hotly debated GOAT to many basketball fans, Michael Jordan remains the sole Black owner of an NBA franchise. Even though his only GOAT competition is a certified billionaire who has stated he would like to own an NBA team, as an active player, it’s highly unlikely that LeBron James will place a bid for his Western Conference opposition.
Replacing Robert Sarver with yet another owner who looks like and publicly sounds like Sarver moves the needle of progress precisely nowhere. Before last week, no one on a national scale knew of Sarver’s disgusting and racial animus and it would be blindly foolish to think that Sarver is the only NBA with prejudice in his heart and hate on his tongue.
Yet and still, Sarver would have us believe the climate of the times is the problem and not his actions. In a statement released by Sarver, he says in part, “In our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” Sarver wrote in a statement. “For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
That justification may help him sleep better at night, but for the next owner of the Phoenix franchises, it would behoove the NBA to find another owner that reflects the character, culture, and indeed color of its players. It’s not to suggest a Black man or woman doesn’t have the capacity to use hate speech, however, with a league that is over 75% Black, having a single owner – who happens to be arguably the greatest player of its game – speaks to how exceptionally great Black folks have be just to have a seat at the same table we’ve helped build.
Robert Sarver is not an isolated incident nor was the Los Angeles Clipper’s Donald Sterling in 2014, yet proving bad behavior is much more difficult than merely speculating about it.
While we may never know the unspoken intentions of each NBA owner, Sarver’s upcoming selling of the franchise is an opportunity akin to the NFL’s Denver Broncos’ last summer when they were up for sale. At the time it was highly speculated that a Black ownership group would purchase the mile-high franchise, however, in the end the franchise would be majority-bought by an heir of Walmart and his family members along with three notable Black figures.
Until faces at the top of these organizations reflect those making them wealthier on the courts, the NBA – much like the NFL – will continue to harbor hatred in private while advocating for equality and justice in public.