(Bloomberg) -- Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, said he’s starting to seek buyers for the NBA and WNBA franchises amid mounting pressure to step down after an investigation found he used racist slurs and harassed female employees.
Sarver said in a statement that he had planned to make amends during his one-year suspension, but that “the current unforgiving climate” made that impossible.
“Whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” he said Wednesday. “I want what’s best for these two organizations, the players, the employees, the fans, the community, my fellow owners, the NBA and the WNBA. This is the best course of action for everyone.”
The Phoenix Suns and Mercury said Sarver’s decision to sell teams “is in the best interest of the organization and community.” Sarver owns 35% of the NBA’s Suns, which are valued at $1.9 billion, according to Sportico.
The NBA faced criticism following its Sept. 13 decision to suspend Sarver for a year and make him to pay a $10 million fine, which falls short of what was imposed on former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned from the league for life in 2014 and forced to sell his team over racist remarks.
“I fully support the decision by Robert Sarver to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday in a statement. President of the NBA players’ union CJ McCollum thanked Sarver “for making a swift decision that was in the best interest of our sports community.”
Silver had defended the decision last week, arguing the findings didn’t show Sarver’s conduct was “motivated by racial animus.”
LeBron James said the league got it “wrong,” while PayPal Holdings Inc. vowed to end its sponsorship deal with the franchise if Sarver stuck around. Jahm Najafi, who owns a minority stake in the Suns, had also said he should step down.
(Updates with Suns, players’ union comment paragraph four and six.)
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