Among NBA owners’ political donations, Robert Sarver is no exception
A problem with NBA players’ agreement to work with team governors on voting rather than concrete systemic reform in their communities is that for ownership and players, voting can mean very different things.
A new investigation by John Gonzalez at The Ringer draws in stark reality the gap between the kinds of changes NBA players are pushing for when they take to the streets or on the mic and what NBA team governors are supporting with their votes and dollar donations. As Gonzalez said, “It’s not news that billionaires who own sports teams are giving massive amounts to politicians and their political action committees, and it’s no surprise that most of that money is aimed at conservatives and their causes.”
Yet Gonzalez also cited the focus within the NBA on HR 7120, or the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which passed the US House of Representatives this summer with just three ‘yes’ votes. of Republican members and was not put to a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. None of the Republican House Representatives from Arizona voted yes on the bill, which would lower the standard of criminal intent required to arrest and charge a police officer; limiting qualified immunity as a defense for law enforcement; and authorizing the US Department of Justice to subpoena local police departments in federal investigations into “a pattern or practice of discrimination.”
While the bill passed the House on a bipartisan basis and is a simple structural reform that would punish those who abuse their position in law enforcement, the Senate did not even held a vote, even though organizations like the NBA are advocating for its passage.
Meanwhile, Suns managing partner Robert Sarver donated at least $13,800 to Martha McSally’s two senatorial campaigns in 2019, according to FEC declarations. Sarver has also backed Republican political action committees like the Republican National Senate Committee and DefendArizona, which support the current Senate, which has taken no action on criminal justice reform since Floyd’s May 25 death.
In an exclusive comment to Bright Side, here’s how Sarver explained his support for McSally:
“Martha McSally is an equal rights advocate. Deciding which candidate to support is not one question, but many questions that impact our country and our state. Social justice is ONE issue with job creation, education and health care being paramount to me.
To be fair, Sarver has donated from both sides of the political spectrum, including large sums to US Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. And in 2020, Sarver’s political action has run out of steam. The FEC is not showing any political donations from Sarver this year.
It comes after Sarver admitted to the Arizona Republic that he donated to Sal DiCiccio during his Phoenix City Council runs., saying, “There was a (campaign) donation made by me in October 2014, and others who worked for the Phoenix Suns. Of course, we make donations to candidates running for office.
Sarver was responding to bizarre accusations of corruption, but the point remains: Sarver backed the election of a man who called NBA players who protested the season restart “whining bitches.”
Over the years, Sarver and the Suns have committed more than $30 million to marginalized communities through Suns Charities. Of course, the Suns will also attempt to restore the franchise to Phoenix-area voters this fall by turning the Madhouse on McDowell into a voting site. They have invested money and energy in their community.
And the Suns have avoided specifically supporting the candidates even as they work to give Arizonans new opportunities to vote, but the Phoenix Mercurys wore “Vote Warnock” t-shirts this season in their bubble to support the Reverend. Raphael Warnock, a candidate in the United States. Georgia Senate. And it has been made clear this year more than in any other that while common-sense police and criminal justice reform at the federal and local levels is a priority, Democratic candidates have been far more active than Republicans. A Senate bill drafted by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (a black man) and co-sponsored by McSally nearly passed this summer and received bipartisan support, but McSally and Sinema have publicly said it needs more bipartisan collaboration to pass, and it has since been pushed aside as the election nears and the Supreme Court and COVID-19 relief take center stage on the Hill.
For Sarver to support his employees across the Suns and Mercury, he doesn’t necessarily need to vote the same way they do. Certainly, Phoenix players and coaches have been free to speak up this year. But in a fight over valuing black life in this country and how to fix a fractured policing system, conservatives have shown themselves on the opposite side of NBA players, sometimes attack them outright.
Without team governors who are willing to stand with players on this issue, it will be difficult for the NBA to make any kind of progress to make the communities they come from safer and fairer. So far, Sarver is among the overwhelming majority of NBA governors who have repeatedly sided with those who voted against those improvements for Black Americans.