Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been a champion for equality and social justice for the majority of his life, making for part of his legacy just as important as his on-court heroics for the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers.
Hence, it was inevitable Abdul-Jabbar would have some thoughts on the investigation into the Phoenix Suns and their owner, Robert Sarver. Earlier this week, the NBA fined Sarver $10 million and suspended him for a year after finding evidence of racism and misogyny in his behavior, adding to the franchise’s toxic work environment.
The investigation found Server to have used the N-word several times and made lewd comments toward women.
The punishment has been widely considered as just a slap on the wrist. But on his substack, Abdul-Jabbar looked at the bigger picture and asked how Sarver was able to get away with such behavior for nearly two decades:
How is it possible that owners using the n-word and harassing female employees is still a thing? Because some wealthy team owners still have a plantation mentality that their money insulates them from common decency or the law. They see themselves as elevated to godlike status and are confused and angry when everyone around them isn’t grateful to be in their presence. Instead of receding into history where it belongs, this arrogant paternal attitude has gained traction since the ascension of Trump and his acolytes. They have demeaned women by denying them their reproductive rights, banished the LGBTQ+ community, and diminished Blacks by curtailing their voting.
Sarver is just part of the larger pattern of the resurgence of an entitled conservative backlash against all marginalized people who have been making social and political progress. How was he able to get away with it for 18 years? That’s the real question—and the answer shames us all.
Abdul-Jabbar added the insufficient punishment of Sarver hurts the NBA’s reputation as America’s most progressive sports league:
The NBA is the most socially progressive professional sports organization around, but they disappointed a lot of players, fans, and the general public by not taking the punishment far enough. A mere fine and one-year suspension is not an endorsement of Sarver’s behavior, but neither is it the zero-tolerance rejection it should be. The NBA had the opportunity to make a bold statement in support of Black players and women. But they blinked.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has defended the investigation’s outcome, saying Sarver’s case wasn’t as severe as Donald Sterling’s — whom the league forced to sell the L.A. Clippers after finding him guilty of racist behavior.
But Silver’s arguments fall flat considering even Suns star Chris Paul has called the NBA out for failing to punish Sarver appropriately.
LeBron James criticizes NBA for Sarver’s light penalty
Lakers All-Star LeBron James was among the prominent sports figures who criticized the NBA for the Sarver investigation. “Our league definitely got this wrong,” James tweeted.
“I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this ain’t it.”
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