Suns Owner Wasn’t Only Phoenix Executive Partaking In Misconduct According To Report

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The Phoenix Suns’ ongoing controversy surrounding team owner Robert Sarver’s culture of workplace misconduct is unfolding and exposing other team executives that have been equally culpable of harassing current and former employees.

In a new report by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, utilizing the testimonies of over two dozen Suns employees, Sarver’s constant berating inspired other high-ranking Suns executives to treat workers with intense vitriol.

Among these figures is Suns CEO Jason Rawley, who played a significant part in harassing Suns workers — from salespeople to security members — as a result of Sarver’s mistreatment, following in his footsteps and operating with assumed immunity with every fit of rage.

Toxic Workplace Culture is a ‘Trickle-Down Effect

Several accounts relayed by ESPN put Rawley at the center of outright discrimination, including when a female employee was ousted from her job because of disagreements with Rawley over her maternity leave.

“Sarver created the culture, but [the executives] upheld it,” one Suns employee told Holmes.

Rawley became a point of focus after Sarver’s workplace misconduct went public in an ESPN report on Nov. 2021. As the team and Sarver vowed to change the abusive culture within the organization, employees questioned whether fellow team executives would be subject to punishment similar to Sarver, who earned a one-year suspension and a $10 million fine by the NBA.

The anonymous employees in contact with ESPN stated that while Sarver spearheaded the toxic culture in the organization, members like Rawley (who worked as the COO before becoming team president) both supported and escalated Sarver’s abusive behavior.

Rawley Draws Ire

Rawley worked as a lawyer before Sarver hired him in 2007. Employees noted that while Rawley started out as an agreeable executive, he quickly changed his attitude and built an infamous reputation as a vicious hothead on staff.

RELATED: PHOENIX SUNS OWNER ROBERT SARVER INTENDS TO SELL TEAM

“He was a nice guy when he started. Then he became team president,” a report on workplace misconduct stated, singling out Rawley for creating a terse workplace environment for women. “On one occasion, an executive ‘barged’ into a female employee’s office, leaned over her desk, and cursed at her when he learned the employee had informally complained to a colleague about her reporting structure.”

Rawley swatted at all complaints aimed at him and influenced decisions to fire female employees that questioned his position.

“‘Who the f— do you think you are?” Rawley said to one ex-employee. “Who are you to question the reporting structure?’ If I tell you to report to someone, you f—ing report to them.”

The CEO also barked at security members at Footprint Center whenever he was refused entry into an event over his lack of identification. On several occasions, Rawley called for security personnel to be fired for requesting his ID. Reports said he would ask, “Do you know how I am?” before launching tirades.

After the news went public of Sarver’s toxic workplace, the Suns staff held a Townhall-esque Zoom session where employees questioned whether currently employed executives that exhibited behavior similar to Sarver’s would be allowed to keep their jobs, with the intent of singling out Rawley among the pack.

“There’s a lot of people in leadership that have been there for 10-15 years that are contributing to the problem,” a current employee said. “They’re not good people. That’s what it comes down to. They don’t care about anyone but themselves.”

The response to the query, which was largely scripted by a law firm that met with Suns ownership, was purposefully vague as all parties were aware of Rawley’s involvement in the damning report aimed at Sarver.

Phoenix numerously suffered instances of physical, mental and emotional abuse. In the case of a female Suns employee that was groped by a courtside season ticket holder, she had alerted the Suns brass, and aside from revoking the fan’s tickets, nothing else was done about the matter as the employee returned to work events.

The Suns were regretful of their handling of the situation. “In interviews with investigators,” the ESPN report noted, “senior team executives acknowledged that the Suns mishandled this matter.”

One current employee said: “The work is not complete. There are still senior executives who are currently on staff that have helped to foster this toxic workplace for the last 15-plus years with no culpability for their actions.”

Another employee added: “Some of the same toxic people that caused the problems are still here and have not been fired. That’s a huge problem. The abusers continue to work under our roof.”

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Written by Alejandro Avila

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