NBA insider Jordan Schultz delivered a bombshell of a tweet Friday when he announced the league was preparing for a report accusing Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver of acts of "racism, sexism and sexual harassment" said to be so severe, he could be banished from the Association similar to how former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life in 2014 for making racist remarks.
The Suns, Sarver, general manager James Jones and team president and CEO Jason Rowley all responded with statements.
"We understand that ESPN is considering publishing a proposed story that makes completely baseless claims against the Suns Legacy Partners, LLC organization concerning a variety of topics," the Suns said. "Documentary evidence in our possession and eyewitness accounts directly contradict the reporter’s accusations, and we are preparing our response to his questions. We urge everyone not to rush to judgment here. Especially based on lies, innuendo, and a false narrative to attack our organization and its leadership."
Sarver himself vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
"I am wholly shocked by some of the allegations purported by ESPN about me, personally, or about the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations," he said.
"While I can’t begin to know how to respond to some of the vague suggestions made by mostly anonymous voices, I can certainly tell you that some of the claims I find completely repugnant to my nature and to the character of the Suns/Mercury workplace and I can tell you they never, ever happened."
"First and foremost, I reject any insinuation of personal or organizational racism or gender discrimination. I despise language that disrespects any individuals, regardless of race, gender, preference, or choice. Such language has no place in business or at home in what I consider Suns and Mercury families. I am proud of our record of diversity and inclusion on both teams – whether on the court or in the front office.
"I don’t begin to know how to prove that something DIDN’T happen, and it is difficult to erase or forget ugly accusations once they are made. Even hints of racism or sexism in our culture today are toxic and damaging and should not be lightly raised. I categorically deny any and all suggestions that I used disparaging language related to race or gender. I would like to think that my actions and public record regarding race, gender, or discrimination of any kind, over a lifetime in business and community service, will adequately answer any questions anyone might raise about my commitment to equality and fairness."
Jones said that "none of what’s been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like – it just doesn’t."
Rowley promised the Suns and Mercury take such allegations made against anybody associated with the teams "very seriously" but added:
"I will simply say that we are aware of the false narratives (the story) contains, and plan to respond accordingly. This story is completely outrageous and false. It doesn’t represent – at all – the Robert Sarver I’ve worked alongside of for 15 years. He’s not a racist and he’s not a sexist. I will also say that reporter in this instance has shown a reckless disregard for the truth. He has harassed employees, former employees, and family members; used truths, half-truths and rumors to manufacture a story in which he’s heavily invested and then perpetuate a completely false narrative within the sports industry to back it up. His tactics throughout this process have been without any basis in journalism ethics or even morality."
The specifics of the accusations hadn't been divulged as of early Friday evening, but it appears Sarver is readying himself for a fight, if necessary.