After a nine-month investigation, Adam Silver and the NBA suspended and fined Phoenix Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver for disorderly conduct. The findings of the investigation, which were detailed in an official press release from the NBA, included instances of sexual, racial, and verbal abuse.
While the fine issued is the maximum amount allowed under NBA Constitution and By-Laws, the one-year suspension is seemingly inconsistent with the zero-tolerance precedent the league set in 2014 with Donald Sterling. Forcing Sterling to sell the LA Clippers, banning him for life, Silver sent a clear and adamant message that racism of any kind would not be tolerated by the NBA. As anticipated, reporters asked Silver about this on Wednesday, and he attempted to explain why the two situations are different.
According to Silver, Sterling demonstrated "blatant racist conduct directed at a select group of people," while also making additional comments after being contacted by the league. In comparison, Silver said that Sarver’s comments were "beyond the pale in every possible way," but "wholly of a different kind than we saw in the [Sterling] case."
Silver also mentioned the lack of audio tapes in this case; however, since testimonies from over 300 witnesses were enough to fine Sarver $10M and suspend him for a year, it is hard to believe the evidence was not signifiant enough to orchestrate his removal from the league.
When Adam Silver issued Donald Sterling's lifetime ban in 2014, he said that such behavior simply had no place in the NBA. Now eight years later, coupled with sexual misconduct, such behavior is deemed forgivable after a one-year suspension. Despite his attempt to communicate the differences between the two cases, Adam Silver failed to uphold the zero-tolerance policy he established in 2014.