- Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print, focusing on the NBA. He has covered the Lakers, the Celtics and previously worked for The Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times.
Three former Phoenix Suns employees have received messages from Penny Sarver, the wife of Robert Sarver, who is the team’s majority owner.
Two messages came from the @pennsar Instagram account and another was a text message from a number that belongs to Penny Sarver.
These former employees say they consider the messages an attempt to intimidate them. The NBA has launched an investigation into Sarver and the Suns in the wake of ESPN publishing a story based on interviews with more than 70 current and former Suns employees who described a sometimes toxic and hostile workplace during Sarver’s 17-year tenure in Phoenix.
When reached for comment, Penny Sarver confirmed she sent the messages and said she looks forward to the NBA’s investigation.
“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 said. “I shared the betrayal that I felt and I touched on some of the pain that we are going through as a family.
“Any suggestion that I tried to ‘intimidate’ anyone is as silly as it is wrong and outrageous.”
ESPN has reviewed the messages, which the former employees each confirmed receiving.
“This is Penny Sarver,” one message began. “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.”
Later, the message added, “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 a former Suns head coach who told ESPN that Sarver’s language and behavior emboldened a toxic workplace.
“I don’t know how to interpret it other than as a threat,” one former employee said of the message they received.
A second former employee received a message that began, “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 former employee said their message began, “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 employees said they were unsettled by the message but that they would not be intimidated and were even more emboldened to speak to investigators about their experiences at the Suns under Robert Sarver.
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