Warning: This story contains explicit language.
In late October 2020, businessman and investor Dick Heckmann died of complications from a degenerative condition similar to Parkinson’s disease. At the time, the 76-year-old Heckmann was a minority owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. Six months later, in keeping with his wishes, Heckmann’s widow Wendy hosted at her Rancho Mirage, Calif., house what she described in opening remarks as a posthumous “roast.”
Among the eulogizers that night was Robert Sarver, the Suns and Mercury majority owner who, following last week’s lengthy ESPN report that prompted an NBA investigation, stands accused of misogyny, racism and creating a toxic work environment in Phoenix. (In statements, Sarver has denied most of the allegations.) A month after the event, at Wendy Heckmann’s request, Sarver’s executive assistant sent a link to download a full recording of it to nearly two dozen members of the ownership group and some of their spouses, according to a screenshot of the email obtained by Sports Illustrated.
This July, TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott posted text excerpts of Sarver’s speech, along with a short video clip. But the entire nine minute, 35-second footage of Sarver’s remarks, which SI obtained Tuesday, has not been public until now.
In it, Sarver opens by referencing an ongoing Suns’ home game, in which the team is down heavily to the Spurs in the third quarter, and how Heckmann likely would be displeased with the score. “He’s up there somewhere with his orange hat, watching the games and probably motherfucking with Kobe Bryant somewhere up there,” Sarver says. He then moves on to a series of sexually explicit jokes and anecdotes. Those included:
- References to Heckmann’s sons’ sexual exploits: “We just bought the team in June of 2004. My biggest concerns were ticket sales, sponsorship revenue, trying to sign some players, getting a winning record—what I really know is my biggest concern was the Heckmann boys were fucking their way through the cheerleading team.”
- Stories about Heckmann’s own sex life, including one involving former Suns great Steve Nash: “Dick was chasing everything that moved in Scottsdale. And speaking of—someone said he left his DNA. He did leave his DNA in Steve Nash's socks somewhere in the locker room.”
- Sarver said Heckmann liked to boast about how frequently he had sex: “Dick would say he had sex 10 times in a day. Unmedicated. ... And I finally figured out, it was Dick’s sex math. So when he said ‘10 times,’ [Sarver thrusts] what he meant is like in and out five times; that was 10 times for Dick.”
- At one point Sarver turned his gaze to someone in the crowd, apparently on their phone and not paying attention. “This guy’s got a make-believe deal going on over here at fucking three in the morning. You merging on a SPAC, or you lining up a hooker over there? What are you doing? It’s a goddamn memorial service. Fucking idiot, Jesus Christ. I’m gonna guess his receptionist has small tits. But, he has no idea; he’s just drinking his wine.”
Made aware of this story on Tuesday night, neither the Suns nor Sarver chose to comment. An NBA spokesperson told SI that the league is aware of the video.
Heckmann’s widow Wendy told SI on Tuesday that Sarver’s remarks were in keeping with the spirit of the event, and she was not offended by them. “It was a roast—that’s what my husband wanted,” Wendy Heckmann said when reached by phone. “He wanted everybody to laugh at his expense, basically, and tell funny stories, and that’s what everybody did.” She added, referring to the reported allegations against Sarver, “That is not the Robert that I know. Robert is a really good person and I’ve never heard him say anything derogatory or anything with any kind of racial flair or any kind of sexist flair or anything—he’s never done that in my presence.”
A repeated theme in ESPN’s report was Suns employees saying that Sarver’s brand of humor offended them or made them uncomfortable—that what he found funny, they found demeaning. The comments in his roast raise similar concerns, according to a current member of the Suns organization who first saw the video as it circulated within the franchise.
“I would characterize [the video] as being inappropriate, outrageous, and consistent with Robert Sarver’s pattern of behavior over the years,” the person told SI. Distributing the video within the Suns organization, the person added, delivered a clear message: “That this behavior is not unacceptable for others to follow.”
Toward the end of his remarks, Sarver reflects on his journey with Heckmann over their 17 years of ownership—beginning when their group bought the franchise for a then NBA record $401 million—before turning to address Heckmann’s family (who last week signed a statement, alongside 11 fellow minority Suns owners, backing Sarver against the allegations).
“Look at how good you guys all turned out,” Sarver said. “I never would have believed it, to be honest with you. I mean, you’re married. You got kids. You got a family. You got a business. You're making money. It’s a fucking miracle, really. Compared to where you guys started 17 years ago, it’s unbelievable. Yeah, I mean we’re lucky we still own the franchise. In today’s environment, we’d have lost it a long time ago.”
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SI is posting the full video of Sarver’s remarks so that readers may make their own judgments. Read the full transcript here.