Robert Sarver showed bikini pic of wife Penny Sanders to staff, gave oral sex details
The 60-year-old businessman has denied the allegations: 'This is a perfect example of how things get twisted'
Robert Sarver has found himself engulfed in controversy as a recent report alleged that he circulated a photo of his wife, Penny Sanders, in a Phoenix Suns bikini while at a meeting. The shocking report by ESPN, which includes accounts of more than 70 current and former Suns employees, has also alleged that he enabled a toxic work culture while being the owner of the Suns for 17 years.
The 60-year-old businessman, who became the owner of the team in 2004, passed his wife’s picture around early on in his tenure. One ex-executive said, “We're passing it around like a hot potato. Like, what in the hell are we supposed to do with this? That was just, you know, one early glimpse at the man.”
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But Sarver denied the allegations and through his legal team said, “This is a perfect example of how things get twisted. In the first year of my ownership, a local apparel retailer had recently been awarded the license to sell official NBA branded swimwear. The retailer sent my wife and me a sample along with a brochure, and I took a picture of her in the sample. I took the brochure and picture of her and gave it to the people at the Suns in charge of overseeing merchandise with the message: 'Here's the catalog, this is what the swimsuit looks like, and if you have any interest in carrying this line in the team shop, then here's the number to call.’”
Also, in the report, over a dozen Suns employees accused Sarver of making vulgar comments in all-staff meetings. They also claimed that he gave out details of oral sex with his wife. Four former staffers said Sarver told them that he wore Magnum or extra-large condoms. They added that the co-founder of Southwest Value Partners, a real estate development company, enquired about their sex life and the sexual expertise of their partners.
A former worker said, “A lot of the stuff he says is to get a big reaction. And who’s going to tell him that he can’t? He speaks in threats. He likes that awkwardness. He likes people to know that he’s in charge. He wants control. He wants control of every situation and every person.” A woman ex-staff member accused Sarver of being misogynist. “Women have very little value. Women are possessions. And I think we’re nowhere close to where he thinks men are,” she added.
But Suns general manager James Jones has come out in Sarver’s defense and told ESPN, “None of what's been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like -- it just doesn't.” Jason Rowley, president and CEO of the Suns, also supported Sarver and noted; “This story is completely outrageous and false. It doesn't represent -- at all -- the Robert Sarver I've worked alongside of for 15 years. He's not a racist and he's not a sexist.”
Besides, Mike Bass, spokesperson for NBA, said that the league has not “received a complaint of misconduct at the Suns organization through any of our processes, including our confidential workplace misconduct hotline or other correspondence.”