Phoenix Suns vice president Jahm Najafi on Thursday called for team owner Robert Sarver to resign, saying there should be “zero tolerance” for lewd, misogynistic and racist conduct in any workplace.
Sarver was suspended for a year and fined $10 million by the NBA on Tuesday after a 10-month investigation showed the Suns owner had used racist language, made rude and sexually suggestive comments to fans. employees and had bullying tendencies.
“I cannot in good judgment sit by and allow our children and future generations of fans to think that this behavior is tolerated due to wealth and privilege,” Najafi wrote in a letter published through a public relations firm. “Therefore, in keeping with my commitment to help eradicate all forms of racism, sexism and prejudice, as Vice President of the Phoenix Suns, I call for the resignation of Robert Sarver.”
Najafi has criticized Sarver throughout this saga, which erupted when ESPN published a story in November detailing widespread claims of wrongdoing by Sarver. That report prompted the NBA to commission an investigation. Najafi is one of three Suns vice presidents, and several other minority investors are also part of the ownership group.
Once the investigation is complete, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver decided that a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine was the appropriate sanction. He said Wednesday that a key finding of outside investigators — that while Sarver “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions during his tenure with the Suns,” investigators “did not find that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate” – likely spared him a much more severe penalty.
Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and Suns shooting guard Chris Paul later issued statements on social media saying the NBA’s sanctions on Sarver did not go far enough.
Najafi agreed. In his letter, he also said that he has “no interest” in becoming a managing partner.
“Similar conduct by any CEO, CEO, president, teacher, coach or any other leadership position would warrant immediate termination,” he said in the letter released through the public relations firm LAVIDGE. “The fact that Robert Sarver ‘owns’ the team does not give him license to treat others differently than any other leader. For someone to find him fit to lead because of this ‘ownership’ position is to forget that NBA teams belong to the communities they serve.”
Najafi’s letter was published the same day as Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and some of the city council members. issued a statement saying they were “appalled by the actions” that were detailed in the Sarver report.
“It is unacceptable that the leadership of the organization is associated in any way with the despicable actions detailed in the report,” that statement said. “We are equally concerned about a culture that would allow these actions to happen over and over again, with, at most, ineffective disciplinary action.”