LeBron James, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, offered his opinion on the Robert Sarver case on Wednesday. He used Twitter to make a quick message in which he voiced his displeasure with how the league handled the situation.
His complete remarks:
“I’ve now read the Sarver stories several times. I have to be sincere. Definitely, our league got this wrong. I don’t have to justify why. You everyone should read the tales and make your own judgments. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: That sort of conduct has no place in this league. I adore this league and have the utmost regard for our executives. But this is wrong. Racism, sexism, and misogyny have no place in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if you play for or own the team. We use our league as an illustration of our principles, and this isn’t it.”
Robert Sarver was the owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. The NBA concluded its nearly year-long investigation into him earlier this week, finding that he had used the N-word at least five times, had behaved unfairly toward female employees, and had subjected employees to harsh and demeaning treatment.
However, the investigation determined that Sarver’s acts were not “motivated by racial or gender-based animus,” and the league did not have any conversations about removing Sarver as owner. Despite confirming such unacceptable behavior. Instead, he received a 10-million-dollar fine and a one-year suspension.
Chris Paul, a current Suns player, also addressed Sarver’s actions and expressed his “horror and disappointment” at the investigation’s conclusions. We can all agree that the future Hall of Famer’s behavior was horrible, but the consequences, in his opinion, “went short in actually addressing that behavior.”
The NBA’s Adam Silver addressed why Sarver was not forced to sell his team in 2014 like former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was during a press conference on Wednesday. The absence of any audio or visual evidence against Sarver, a different context for his acts, and the widespread support Sarver received from those who were interrogated were among the points made by Silver.
It’s also important to note that Silver lacks the authority to arbitrarily ban Sarver or any other owner from the league. He started a court action in 2014 to compel Sterling to sell the team, but in the end, three-fourths of the other owners had to agree to it. It’s unknown if the votes from other owners would have been present in this scenario, but the league elected not to take that route this time.
The first high-profile athletes to come out against the league’s decision were LeBron and Paul, and it wouldn’t be unexpected to see more do the same. However, it is unclear what effect, if any, such pronouncements will have.
It is obvious that the players do have power in these circumstances. The Clippers and Golden State Warriors nearly called off a playoff game after the Sterling scandal before deciding instead to warm up without wearing any apparel featuring their insignia. The NBPA also demanded a swift, severe punishment, and players from all throughout the league expressed vehement, direct displeasure at his actions.
The league’s decision to expel Sterling was influenced by the players’ outspoken comments, but they occurred before the league’s decision, not after. Additionally, because the Sarver penalty was imposed during the offseason, the players are unable to protest or halt play right away.
LeBron and the players may be able to persuade the league and owners to consider dismissing Sarver if they are willing to start interfering with the real on-court performance. It seems unlikely that such words will persuade the league to change its position without that kind of action.