NBA launches investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver over claims of racism, misogyny in ESPN report

Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mercury defeated the Sky 91-86 in overtime.

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The National Basketball Association launched a formal investigation into the Phoenix Suns and owner Robert Sarver following allegations of racism and misogyny in an ESPN report published Thursday.

“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton law firm to commence a comprehensive investigation,” the NBA said in a statement Thursday.

“The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees,” the league continued.  “Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”

The investigation comes after a long-awaited ESPN report that featured multiple allegations of racism and misogyny against Sarver during his 17-year tenure as the Suns owner. ESPN’s reporting was based on interviews with over 70 current and former Suns employees.

In anticipation of the report, the Suns in October denied that Sarver was racist and sexist.

Sarver denied the allegations Thursday, calling the report “inaccurate and misleading,” according to by NBC Sports. He also welcomed the investigation being launched by the league.

“At this point, I would entirely welcome an impartial NBA investigation which may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I’m so very proud,” Sarver said.

The ESPN article includes several instances of Sarver and his lawyers denying or challenging various claims.

Earlier Thursday, Suns Vice Chairman Jahm Nafaji offered support for a potential probe.

“The conduct he is alleged to have committed has stunned and saddened me and is unacceptable,” Nafaji said in a statement. “The well-being and safety of every Suns employee, player, coach and stakeholder is first and foremost our priority. My sincerest sympathy goes out to all whose lives and professions have been impacted.”

He added: “The Phoenix Suns is a national treasure that belongs to all of us as fans and residents of our community. Team investors are simply temporary stewards of this treasure.”

CNBC’s Jessica Golden contributed to this report.

(With inputs from CNBC)