Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday called for the NBA to close its investigation into the Phoenix Suns and remove majority owner Robert Sarver -- or soon provide a clear timetable for a resolution. If not, Sharpton said, he might take demonstrations to Phoenix.
"The owner of the Suns was revealed in the ESPN story last November -- how Sarver, the principal owner of the Phoenix Suns, made all these racist and misogynist statements. And [the NBA] said they were going to investigate it," Sharpton said at the New York City headquarters for the National Action Network, a civil rights organization that he founded in 1991. "Well, how long does it take for an investigation when you have videos and people that come forward?
"I put the call in [Friday] to the NBA that we want them to close the investigation and remove [Sarver] or tell us the timetable by the convention."
The National Action Network is slated to hold its annual convention April 6-9 in New York City.
"We are not going to allow people to affect the culture of the NFL or the NBA and insult us and act like that's acceptable behavior," Sharpton said. "They think, because it was November, everybody forgets about it, and that's why we wanted to put that pressure on. So we are, on the Phoenix Suns."
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass told ESPN on Saturday the investigation, which is being handled by the Wachtell Lipton law firm, is "ongoing and will take the time necessary to complete a thorough and comprehensive review of the matter."
Bass said any potential action by the NBA wouldn't happen until after the investigation is completed.
The NBA began its investigation into the Suns and Sarver in early November 2021, hours after ESPN published its story -- based on interviews with more than 70 current and former employees -- that included allegations of racism and misogyny in a sometimes hostile and toxic workplace in Phoenix during Sarver's 17-year tenure.
Sarver has denied most of the allegations detailed in ESPN's story.
Since then, lawyers for New York-based Wachtell Lipton, which previously led ownership-centered investigations into the LA Clippers and Atlanta Hawks, have interviewed more than 300 individuals, largely current and former employees, sources close to the investigation previously told ESPN. The lawyers have also had access to extensive documents, namely internal emails and human resources records, those sources said.
Employees have confirmed a range of published allegations while introducing others, sources previously told ESPN, and have provided the investigators with documents, specifically emails.
"The story contains outright lies about me that bear no resemblance to my values or who I am as a person," Sarver said in a statement. "After these lies surfaced, I welcomed the NBA's investigation and I have cooperated throughout every step of the process. In our country, and in our league, we require due process. This means that the investigation must be complete before any conclusions are reached about what actually happened."
Sharpton's proclamation Saturday comes after members of a new coalition of civil rights activists, which includes four members of Sharpton's National Action Network, sent a letter on March 11 to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, as well as the NBA board of governors, that called for Sarver's removal.
"We are profoundly disturbed by the reports of racism, misogyny and abusive behavior allegedly committed by Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver," the letter from the 10-person group, which announced itself as the American Sports Accountability Project, said. "There is zero tolerance for such behavior in today's society, and we expect the NBA and its leadership to hold Mr. Sarver accountable for these despicable actions, as was done in the case of Donald Sterling."
Sharpton was part of a delegation that met with Silver in 2014 and pushed for a quick resolution regarding the investigation into Donald Sterling, the former Clippers owner who was banned from the league for racist comments that emerged from a recorded conversation.
The American Sports Accountability Project, or ASAP, also launched a website and a social media hashtag in its campaign: #SackSarver.