NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul blasted the NBA for imposing what they consider a light punishment on Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for racist and misogynist remarks.
National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) executive director Tamika Tremaglio also weighed in, saying Sarver should “never hold a managerial position in our league again” after his “horrible” conduct.
And joining the chorus late Thursday was Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi, who in an open letter obtained by the Arizona Republic called for Sarver to resign.
Sarver was fined $10 million and issued a one-year suspension from league activities on Tuesday to cap a 10-month probe into 18 years of improper activities and the difficult workplace environment they created.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on Wednesday there was never a discussion of forcing Sarver to sell the team, a penalty imposed upon former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in 2014 for racist remarks.
Silver said he did not think the violation rose to that level.
But four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James was among those who don’t see any place in the NBA for Sarver in the future.
“Read through the Sarver stories a few times now. I gotta be honest... Our league definitely got this wrong.” James tweeted Wednesday evening.
“I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior.”
“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team,” he wrote.
“We hold our league up as an example of our values and this ain’t it.”
Paul, a star point guard for the Suns who also served two terms as NBPA president, said he, too, wanted to see greater punishment issued to Sarver.
“Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read,” he said on Twitter Wednesday. “This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated.”
“I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected.”
Najafi, an Iranian-American billionaire businessman, owns the second-largest stake in the Suns and wrote an open letter to the team’s players and employees.
“I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege,” he wrote.
“Therefore, in accordance with my commitment to helping eradicate any form of racism, sexism and bias, as Vice Chairman of the Phoenix Suns, I am calling for the resignation of Robert Sarver.”
Najafi said he has no interest in becoming the majority partner in his call for Sarver’s exit.
“While I have no interest in becoming the managing partner, I will work tirelessly to ensure the next team steward treats all stakeholders with dignity, professionalism and respect,” he wrote.