Seven years after Donald Sterling left the NBA, another team owner is under fire for creating a hostile and toxic work environment. On Thursday morning, sports journalist Baxter Holmes published a story in which former staffers accused Phoenix Suns Owner Robert Sarver of using racial slurs, pulling down the pants of an employee and making sexually inappropriate remarks. Furthermore, several employees told Holmes that Sarver's actions empowered other executives to sexually harass others in the workplace. One former employee said that the workplace had become so toxic that she contemplated suicide. Despite the number of severe accusations levied against him, Sarver maintains that he is not guilty of engaging in the behavior he's been accused of engaging in.
"I continue to be shocked by the false reporting from Baxter Holmes," Sarver stated.
"While there is so much that is inaccurate and misleading in this story that I hardly know where to begin, let me be clear: The n-word is not part of my vocabulary. I have never called anyone or any group of people the n-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by that word, either verbally or in writing. I don't use that word. It is abhorrent and ugly and denigrating and against everything I believe in."
Shortly after Holmes published his story and Sarver issued his response, the NBA stepped in. The league has empowered an independent firm to conduct an investigation of the matter.
"The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees. Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action," NBA Executive Vice President of Communications Mike Bass said.
In the midst of all that has happened, the Phoenix Suns are chasing a second consecutive shot at the NBA title. Hours after the story broke, Chris Paul, Devin Booker and the Suns earned a 12-point win over the Houston Rockets. After the game, Booker spoke openly about the team's ability to perform after learning of the team owner's alleged horrific behavior.
"I think we have a close-knit team that sticks together," Booker said on Thursday, according ESPN.
"We obviously have conversations about it, but like Chris [Paul] said, we still had to show up to shootaround today and we still had to play a game. We're focused on basketball, and I think things will get handled how they're supposed to."
Booker's teammate, Paul, has been in this position before. He was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers when Donald Sterling was ousted by the league for engaging in horrific behavior in the housing market and making racist remarks toward Magic Johnson. While many people drew comparisons before the two situations, Paul says that every situation is different.
"I feel like situations are different," Paul told reporters, according to ESPN.
"We dealt with that in that time when all that happened. I think right now, like Book said, we're not insensitive to everything that was said or whatnot, but we don't know all the details. So the NBA will do its investigation, and in that time, all of us on our team will continue to play and do what we do."
With all that is going on, Paul says that he and his teammates are "locked in" and will continue to "play for one another."
"I've been through a few situations in my time in the league," Paul explained.
"The powers that be, they look into it. They do their investigations or whatnot, but I think the biggest thing that I've learned through all these years is that us as a team, we've got to talk. It's not about what everybody else is saying or everybody else is telling you to do or you should do. It's about how we feel as a team, as a unit, coaching staff, everybody within the organization."
Booker and Paul both feel that they have the perfect coach to lead them through this, Monty Williams.
"He's the best at that -- managing situations, controlling the room and keeping people focused forward," Booker said, according to ESPN.
"That's what he's done with our team. We've talked about it as a team. You can feel everything he says. We're sticking behind him. We're going to keep playing hard for him and winning basketball games."