Posts Tagged ‘2023 WNBA Season’

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has had his requests fulfilled, or at least they’re in progress.

Last week, Sen. Wyden penned a letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert regarding the potential sale of the Portland Trail Blazers and expansion opportunity for the WNBA to the city.

It only took a week for the commissioners to generate their own responses.

Silver failed to respond to Wyden regarding the idea of Phil Knight buying the Blazers from Jody Allen, but did mention the idea of bringing a WNBA expansion franchise to Portland.

Engelbert echoed Silver’s sentiments and mentioned that Portland “is a market that we hold in high regard and are actively considering.” PDX was home to a WNBA franchise, the Portland Fire, from 2000-02 before folding after three seasons.

But given Portland’s dedication to women’s sports and the success of the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, there’s a chance the WNBA could return to PDX in the near future.

Robert Sarver says he has started the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, a move that comes only eight days after he was suspended by the NBA over workplace misconduct that included racist speech and hostile behavior toward employees.

Sarver made the announcement Wednesday, saying selling “is the best course of action,” although he initially hoped he would be able to keep control of the franchises — pointing to his record that, he claims, paints a dramatically different picture of who he is and what he stands for.

“But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible — that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past,” Sarver wrote in a statement. “For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver agreed with Sarver’s decision.

“I fully support the decision by Robert Sarver to sell the Phoenix Suns and Mercury,” Silver said. “This is the right next step for the organization and community.”

Sarver bought the teams in July 2004 for about $400 million. He is not the lone owner, but the primary one.

Assuming no other team is sold in the interim, it would be the first sale in the NBA since a group led by Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith bought the Utah Jazz in 2021 for about $1.7 billion.

It’s not known if Sarver has established an asking price. Forbes recently estimated the value of the Suns at $1.8 billion. Any new owners would have to be vetted by the NBA, which is standard procedure.

An independent report that was commissioned by the NBA last November and took about 10 months to complete found Sarver “repeated or purported to repeat the N-word on at least five occasions spanning his tenure with the Suns,” though added that the investigation “makes no finding that Sarver used this racially insensitive language with the intent to demean or denigrate.”

The study also concluded that Sarver used demeaning language toward female employees, including telling a pregnant employee that she would not be able to do her job after becoming a mother; making off-color comments and jokes about sex and anatomy; and yelling and cursing at employees in ways that would be considered bullying “under workplace standards.”

Once that report was completed, Silver suspended Sarver for one year and fined him $10 million — the maximum allowed by league rule.

“Words that I deeply regret now overshadow nearly two decades of building organizations that brought people together — and strengthened the Phoenix area — through the unifying power of professional men’s and women’s basketball,” Sarver wrote. “As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends, and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love.”

Barely a week later, Sarver evidently realized that would not be possible.

His decision comes after a chorus of voices — from players like Suns guard Chris Paul and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, to longtime team sponsors like PayPal, and even the National Basketball Players Association — said the one-year suspension wasn’t enough.

James weighed in again Wednesday, shortly after Sarver’s statement went public: “I’m so proud to be a part of a league committed to progress!” he tweeted.

Added retired NBA player Etan Thomas, also in a tweet: “Sarver is cashing out, so this is not really a punishment for him, but definitely glad he will be gone.”

Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi called last week for Sarver to resign, saying there should be “zero tolerance” for lewd, misogynistic, and racist conduct in any workplace. Najafi, in that same statement, also said he did not have designs on becoming the team’s primary owner.

“I do not want to be a distraction to these two teams and the fine people who work so hard to bring the joy and excitement of basketball to fans around the world,” Sarver wrote. “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.”

Sarver, through his attorney, argued to the NBA during the investigative process that his record as an owner shows a “longstanding commitment to social and racial justice” and that it shows he’s had a “commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Among the examples Sarver cited was what he described as a league-best rate of 55% employment of minorities within the Suns’ front office and how more than half of the team’s coaches and general managers in his tenure — including current coach Monty Williams and current GM James Jones — are Black.

The WNBA will hold a preseason contest in Canada next year, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Sunday, according to The Athletic’s Alexa Philippou.

It’s unclear when and where the exhibition game will take place. The two teams taking part weren’t disclosed either.

The WNBA hasn’t played a game outside of the United States since 2011.

Engelbert has previously spoken about expanding by one or two teams with hopes of integrating each new club into league play as early as 2024.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which owns the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, has looked into bringing a WNBA franchise to the city, a source told Chantel Jennings and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

The WNBA last expanded in 2008 when it added the Atlanta Dream.