Robert Sarver’s wife has confirmed she contacted three former Phoenix Suns employees – which were viewed as “threats” by those contacted – amid an NBA investigation into allegations of racism and sexism against her husband.
“Over the weekend, I decided on my own to reach out to a few people to try to set the record straight and to share how disappointed and hurt I am by the lies that are circulating about my husband and the Suns organization,” Penny Sarver told ESPN, adding that she looks forward to the NBA’s investigation.
“I shared the betrayal that I felt and I touched on some of the pain that we are going through as a family.”
The three former Suns employees told ESPN they believe Sarver’s messages were an intimidation tactic.
Sarver reportedly reached out to them through social media and a personal phone. Two messages were delivered from an Instagram account, “@pennsar,” and another was sent as a text message from her cell phone number, according to the outlet.
One message read: “This is Penny Sarver. I know a lot of bridges were burned between you and Robert and you are very bitter. I want to remind you that real lives are at stake here.”
The same message later included: “Please put your hatred aside and realize the hurt you are causing by spreading lies and fabrications. Is your time in the spotlight that important? If something happens to one of my children, I will hold you and Earl Watson personally responsible. Think about your own child for a second and imagine the tables turned.”
Watson is the team’s former head coach who, as one of more than 70 interviews with current and former Suns employees, told ESPN that Sarver encouraged a toxic workplace. He took over as majority owner of the Suns in 2004.
Another former employee said they received a text message from Penny Sarver that read: “I am so terribly saddened that you would say such untrue things about my husband. Your interpretation of what happened is so far from the truth. You are crushing my families lives. Thanks for that.”
A third said their message included: “You are such a liar. In your trying to destroy my husband with [your] lies — you have destroyed my family and children.”
One of the three employees contacted said, “I don’t know how to interpret it other than as a threat,” while discussing the message they received from Sarver.
Sarver told ESPN, “Any suggestion that I tried to ‘intimidate’ anyone is as silly as it is wrong and outrageous.”
Sarver’s husband denied allegations of racism, sexism and sexual harassment in October after learning ESPN was preparing an upcoming story (published on Nov. 4).
Last week, Sarver denied a separate allegation through his legal team that he would talk about his sex life with employees, including intimate details about his wife.
After the allegations of a toxic workplace culture in Phoenix went public, Jason Rowley, president and CEO of the Suns, called the story “completely outrageous and false.”
Sarver said he would support any league inquiry to the allegations made against him in a statement, prior to the NBA’s investigation.
Suns general manager James Jones told ESPN, “None of what’s been said describes the Robert Sarver I know, respect and like — it just doesn’t.”