Late last month, a number of individuals within the Phoenix Suns organization released a statement refuting a story that had not yet been published that allegedly detailed instances of racism, sexism, and sexual harassment by the team’s longtime owner, Robert Sarver. The piece, by Baxter Holmes of ESPN, dropped on Thursday afternoon, and it included a number of anecdotes from “more than 70 former and current Suns employees throughout Sarver’s 17-year tenure.”
Among them was an interaction that Sarver had with former Suns head coach Earl Watson, who told ESPN about the exchange. In the aftermath of a 106-100 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Sarver allegedly entered the locker room and had a conversation with Watson surrounding Draymond Green using the n-word.
As Watson told it, Sarver used the actual word and was told by Watson to stop, which led to the owner asking why he could not use it if Green did.
“You know, why does Draymond Green get to run up the court and say [N-word],” Sarver, who is white, allegedly said, repeating the N-word several times in a row.
“You can’t say that,” Watson, who is Black and Hispanic, told Sarver.
“Why?” Sarver replied. “Draymond Green says [N-word].”
“You can’t f—ing say that,” Watson said again.
The piece includes a number of other ex-staffers telling stories of times they heard Sarver use the word, including his belief that the team needed to hire Lindsey Hunter instead of Dan Majerle as head coach in 2013 because “these [N-words] need a [N-word].” While Sarver denied these accounts and claimed “I don’t use that word,” he did say in a statement that one time, he used the word:
“On one occasion a player used the N-word to describe the importance of having each others’ back,” Sarver, via his attorneys, told ESPN. “I responded by saying, ‘I wouldn’t say n—a, I would say that we’re in the foxhole together.’ An assistant coach approached me a short time after and told me that I shouldn’t say the word, even if I were quoting someone else. I immediately apologized and haven’t said it ever again. The N-word has never been a part of my vocabulary.”