In the wake of ESPN’s damning investigative story that uncovered a potentially toxic and hostile workplace within the Phoenix Suns organization, the NBA has launched an investigation looking into the conduct of majority Suns owner, Robert Sarver, who is being accused of, among other things, sexist and racist behavior over his 17-year tenure in Phoenix.
Amid this now ongoing investigation, ESPN reported on Tuesday that Robert Sarver’s wife, Penny Sarver, reached out to three former Suns employees with messages the recipients considered attempts to intimidate them.
“Over the weekend, I decided on my own to reach out to a few people to try to set the record straight and to share how disappointed and hurt I am by the lies that are circulating about my husband and the Suns organization,” Penny Sarver told ESPN. “I shared the betrayal that I felt and I touched on some of the pain that we are going through as a family.
“Any suggestion that I tried to ‘intimidate’ anyone is as silly as it is wrong and outrageous.”
ESPN has reviewed the messages, which the former employees each confirmed receiving.
“This is Penny Sarver,” one message began. “I know a lot of bridges were burned between you and Robert and you are very bitter. I want to remind you that real lives are at stake here.”
Later, the message added, “Please put your hatred aside and realize the hurt you are causing by spreading lies and fabrications. Is your time in the spotlight that important? If something happens to one of my children, I will hold you and Earl Watson personally responsible. Think about your own child for a second and imagine the tables turned.”
Watson is a former Suns head coach who told ESPN that Sarver’s language and behavior emboldened a toxic workplace.
“I don’t know how to interpret it other than as a threat,” one former employee said of the message they received.
A second former employee received a message that began, “I am so terribly saddened that you would say such untrue things about my husband. Your interpretation of what happened is so far from the truth. You are crushing my families lives. Thanks for that.”
A third former employee said their message began, “You are such a liar. In your trying to destroy my husband with [your] lies — you have destroyed my family and children.”
One of the employees said they were unsettled by the message but that they would not be intimidated and were even more emboldened to speak to investigators about their experiences at the Suns under Robert Sarver.
Prior to the NBA’s announcement that it would be opening a formal investigation into Robert Sarver and the Suns, the owner put out a statement that he would welcome any opportunity to clear his name and the reputation of his organization.
“I would entirely welcome an impartial NBA investigation which may prove our only outlet for clearing my name and the reputation of an organization of which I’m so very proud,” Sarver said.
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Phoenix Suns minority owner, Jahm Najafi, also said in a statement that he would help in any investigation while expressing extreme regret for and disapproval of Sarver’s alleged actions.
“The conduct [Robert Sarver] is alleged to have committed has stunned and saddened me and is unacceptable,” Najafi said. “The well-being and safety of every Suns employee, player, coach and stakeholder is first and foremost our priority. My sincerest sympathy goes out to all whose lives and professions have been impacted … Although today’s revelations fall under the jurisdiction of the League which decides and takes any action based on its finding, I offer my support to ensure there is full accountability.”