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Phoenix Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi calls on team owner Robert Sarver to resign

<i>Christian Petersen/Getty Images</i><br/>
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

By Jacob Lev, CNN

In an open letter to Phoenix Suns employees and players on Thursday, team vice chairman Jahm Najafi has called on team owner Robert Sarver to resign.

In the letter, obtained by CNN, Najafi said: “I cannot in good judgment sit back and allow our children and future generations of fans to think that this behavior is tolerated because of wealth and privilege.

“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.”

Sarver was fined $10 million and suspended for a year after an independent investigation found he engaged in hostile, racially insensitive and inappropriate behavior.

The report, commissioned by the NBA last fall after an ESPN report about Sarver’s behavior, found the Suns owner had “on at least five occasions during his tenure with the Suns/Mercury organization, repeated the N-word when recounting the statements of others.”

READ: ‘Our league definitely got this wrong’ — LeBron James respond to Robert Sarver decision

He also “engaged in instances of inequitable conduct toward female employees, made many sex-related comments in the workplace, made inappropriate comments about the physical appearance of female employees and other women, and on several occasions engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees,” according to the report.

CNN has reached out to the Suns and NBA for comment but did not immediately hear back.

In his letter, Najafi added: “I first and foremost want to give my deepest thanks to all of you who garnered the courage to share your experiences, as difficult as it may have been, to help piece together a clearer picture of what work life must have been like for you over these past 18 years.

“There should be zero tolerance for discriminatory actions of any level, in any setting, let alone a professional one. There is no question that the findings determined that Mr. Sarver’s lewd, misogynist, and racist conduct had a substantial negative impact on you and has no place in our society.”

On Friday, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said the global technology platform and digital payments company will not renew its sponsorship with the Phoenix Suns if Sarver stays with the team.

“PayPal is a values-driven company and has a strong record of combatting racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination,” Schulman said in a statement. “We have reviewed the report of the NBA league’s independent investigation into Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and have found his conduct unacceptable and in conflict with our values.”

‘Deplorable behavior’

National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio posted a Twitter thread late Wednesday night stating her position on the concluded investigation and punishment for Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. Tremaglio’s thread was shared further on the NBPA’s official Twitter account.

The thread reads: “Yesterday the NBA released the findings from the independent investigation by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz involving Suns Governor Robert Sarver. Mr. Sarver’s reported actions and conduct are horrible and have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter.

“Additionally, the investigation confirmed that Mr. Sarver’s deplorable behavior did not just come to light in November 2021. In fact, the report indicated Mr Sarver’s long history of inappropriate conduct, including racial and gender insensitivity, misogyny and harassment.

“All issues that led to a toxic work environment for well over a decade. I have made my position known to Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again.”

On Wednesday, LeBron James and former NBPA President Chris Paul had both expressed their doubts over the NBA’s handling of the investigation and punishment.

CNN has reached out to the NBA and Phoenix Suns to confirm ESPN reports that vice chairman and minority owner Sam Garvin has been made interim governor of the team during Sarver’s year-long suspension.

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