What's next for Phoenix Suns following conclusion of Robert Sarver investigation?

Duane Rankin
Arizona Republic

The Phoenix Suns now officially know their majority owner won’t be with them for a year.

The NBA revealed the results of the Robert Sarver investigation Tuesday that concluded he used the N-word and made inappropriate comments towards women in the workplace.

The NBA imposed a one-year suspension on Sarver that began Tuesday, which means he can’t be around any NBA or WNBA teams as he's also majority owner of the Phoenix Mercury. He also was fined $10 million, the maximum amount allowed under NBA constitution and by-laws, for ''workplace misconduct and organizational deficiencies'' found during the NBA investigation.

Mike Bass, NBA executive vice president and chief communications officer, told The Republic that a process is underway to identify another team owner to act as "interim Governor" for the Suns. Suns Legacy Partners LLC is the ownership group that holds the Suns. Sarver is majority owner, but the group includes about a dozen other minority owners.

More:NBA suspends Sarver for one year, fines him $10 million after investigation

So, what’s next for the Suns?

Recent NBA power rankings are not kind to Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver (right) and general manager James Jones.

Media day

The Suns will open training camp with media availability Sept. 26.

This will be the first time the team as a collective will be made available for questions after very eventful offseason highlights with two-time finals MVP Kevin Durant demanding a trade out of Brooklyn and wanting to join the Suns.

When the ESPN report dropped on Nov. 4 detailing allegations of Sarver creating a “toxic” work environment, Suns coach Monty Williams made point to say that all the allegations occurred before he became head coach in May 2018.

"An article was written, many opinions were shared, many feelings were shared, but all of it happened before I was here," Williams said before a Nov. 4 home game against Houston. "Based on what you know about me, the little you know about me, if any of that stuff happened while I was here, I wouldn't be in this seat."

Now that an investigation headed by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm concluded Sarver did indeed create a toxic environment during his 18-year tenure as team owner, it’ll be interesting to see what William has to say when asked about the results of the investigation.

Suns General Manager James Jones and the Suns players will be made available as well. How they address the matter will set the tone for how the Suns proceed on this matter moving forward.

Chris Paul’s comments will be of great interest since he was with the Clippers when Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban.

June 27, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Suns owner Robert Sarver (center) sits with Suns guards Langston Galloway (L) and Chris Paul during the first quarter of a Mercury v. Sparks game at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Take action?

The odds are against the remaining 29 NBA Board of Governors voting Sarver out.

They could one day be in the same situation in terms of being investigated.

So, pressure may fall upon the players to speak up and take action. They could receive outside heat to miss games starting in the preseason until further action is taken against Sarver.

Phoenix opens preseason play Oct. 5 against the Adelaide 36ers of the NBL at Footprint Center.

Fourteen of the 16 current Suns player are Black or mixed race with three being team leaders Devin Booker, Jae Crowder and Paul, who served as president of the National Basketball Players Association for eight years.

With Sarver prohibited from being around the team, the Suns could just proceed as business as usual with their team owner being out of sight, out of mind, but the result of the investigation are permanent.

So, the players may receive pressure to do something.

Read more: Sarver vs. Sterling: 2 NBA owners acted badly. Why was just 1 banned for life?

Possible demonstrations

Sticking with that theme, fans could have demonstrations outside the arena or practice facility calling for Sarver to be banned from the league.

Rev. Al Sharpton had talked about visiting Phoenix to protest against Sarver.

Civil Rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at a service held with the families and the community of Andre McNeil, Geraldine Talley and Ruth Whitfield at Antioch Baptist Church on May 19, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. McNeil, Talley and Whitfield were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Tops grocery store on Saturday, May 14th in Buffalo.

He’s been calling for the league to remove him from his ownership position for several months and believes Sarver should receive a stronger punishment.

This has the potential to become a firestorm as it is an extremely hot-button topic – or slowly fade away just as it did during last season when the Suns won 19 of their first 22 regular-season games.

Fans could boycott games, which would impact the team’s finances.

For subscribers: Somers: Why is Sarver still owner of Suns, Mercury?

New ownership?

The Suns may find investors have an interest in purchasing the team.

Jahm Najafi has the top minority owner for the Suns. He’s one of the first names that comes to mind who could be interested in buying the team from Sarver – if Sarver is looking to sell it.

November 6, 2021; Phoenix, USA; Colin Kaepernick and Suns Vice Chairman Jahm Najafi talk on the front row seats of the Suns vs. Hawks game during the second half at the Footprint Center.

Back in November 2021, Front Office Sports reported former Disney CEO Bob Iger had an interest in the team that according to Forbes was worth $1.8 billion as of October 2021.

The 71-year-old Iger has joined venture-capital firm Thrive Capital as a partner, the company announced Tuesday.

Whoever is interested in buying the team that could sell for $2 billion, the person is going to need partners to make that happen.

Business as usual?

Back in May, Jones was asked how the investigation results might impact the team.

“It doesn’t change what we’re doing on the basketball court,” he said in an interview days after Dallas eliminated Phoenix in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

“It doesn’t change what we’re doing on the basketball operations. Our job as execs and coaches and players is to assemble, build and lead a team to accomplish a goal of winning basketball games. That part of the job doesn’t change.”

The Suns could very well approach this season that way, but that just feels easier said than done right now that the results are out there.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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