Players and fans took to social media reacting to ESPN's bombshell report that Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver allegedly used racist and misogynistic language throughout this 17-year tenure leading the organizations.
The extensive report leads with an incident in October 2016 when Sarver entered the coaches' locker room after a loss to the Golden State Warriors. He allegedly used the N-word several times in a conversation with then-Suns coach Earl Watson asking why players like Draymond Green can use it while on the court.
“You know, why does Draymond Green get to run up the court and say [N-word],” Sarver, who is white, allegedly said, repeating the N-word several times in a row.
“You can’t say that,” Watson, who is Black and Hispanic, told Sarver.
“Why?” Sarver replied. “Draymond Green says [N-word].”
“You can’t f***ing say that,” Watson said again.
The Warriors forward reacted on Twitter:
Green has paid many fines in his career, from $2,000 for each technical foul to a $25,000 hit for ripping the officials in 2018 and even a $50,000 fine for tampering last year. That tampering fine came when he said Devin Booker should get out of Phoenix while working as a guest analyst on NBA on TNT.
“It’s not good for him, it’s not good for his career," Green said.
The NBA has since launched an investigation into the allegations.
Earl Watson responds to ESPN report
Watson, who coached the Suns from 2015-17, issued a statement on Thursday afternoon.
Watson levied several allegations against Sarver in the ESPN report, well beyond just the story with Green and the use of the N-word. He said that, among other things, Sarver threatened to fire him — which he eventually did — if he didn't cut ties with Klutch Sports.
Watson is now an assistant with the Toronto Raptors.
While he didn't want to speak about any of the accusations in the report, Watson did applaud everyone who spoke out about Sarver's alleged behavior.
"I am not interested in engaging in an ongoing battle of fact," Watson said in a statement. "Instead, I want to applaud the courage of numerous players, executives and staffers for fighting toxic environments of racial insensitivity, sexual harassment and micro-aggressions with their truth.
"Basketball and 17 years in the NBA has allowed me the financial privilege to speak my truth, but we can't forget about those who must remain silent for fear of losing their jobs. While our fortitude assists with progress, there is still more work to be done in the name of equality, and I believe that one of the strengths of our league is its ongoing commitment to justice. This has been a traumatic experience, one that has affected me profoundly, and I'm not willing to relive it every day. But I will not forget it, and I will address it more fulsomely at a point in the future when I feel ready."
Former Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who worked in Phoenix from 2013-18, spoke in a short Twitter video on the story on Thursday afternoon, too.
He pledged his support to both those who spoke out about Sarver in the story, and to the current Suns players who were not involved.
“I read ESPN’s story on the Suns franchise today and I was deeply disturbed by the contents of it, so I’m going to lend my full support to Earl Watson, Corliss Williamson and David Bodzin for having the courage to speak in this story," he said. "I worked directly with Earl and C, and I want everyone to realize how courageous these men are … To the fans and the media, the Suns players deserve our full support. They had nothing to do with the behavior described in this story, so please realize the position they’re in going forward and show them the respect and support that they deserve.”