Suns coach Monty Williams, players address Robert Sarver allegations

November 5, 2021
Monty Williams is in his third season as Suns coach.
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Monty Williams is trying to navigate through an ESPN article detailing allegations directed at Phoenix Suns team owner Robert Sarver as well as coach his basketball team.

He’s taking the allegations seriously, is sensitive to all of them, but wants to have a clearer understanding of the facts and admits it’s a lot to process.

A man of faith, Williams even talked to his mentor, a reverend, before speaking with the media before Thursday’s game against the Houston Rockets, but there is one thing he is certain of regardless of what is being said or reported.

“An article was written, many opinions were shared, many feelings were shared, but all of it happened before I was here,” Williams said. “Based on what you know about me, the little you know about me, if any of that stuff happened while I was here, I wouldn’t be in this seat.”

Williams said he first saw the article that alleged Sarver using the N-word on multiple occasions and making sexist comments during his 17-year run as team owner at 9 a.m. during a coach’s meeting Thursday morning.

“It’s just been a lot to process,” Williams said.

While Williams said his team has “a ton of leaders” and have dealt with adversity before, like being in the Orlando Bubble in 2020, he admitted this situation is different.

“This is a situation where they’re going to rally around each other and hoop,” Williams said. “That’s what we do. At the same time, these aren’t comfortable situations. I understand the sensitivity of everything that’s been said or written about and expressed and it takes courage to come out and express yourself. And at the same time, I’m aware there are two sides to this equation.”

Suns star Devin Booker called Williams the “perfect person” to help the Suns navigate the moment. 

“He’s the best at that, at managing situations, controlling the room and keeping people focused forward,” Booker said. “That’s what he’s done with our team, we’ve talked about it as a team. You can feel everything he says. We’re sticking behind him and we’re going to keep playing hard for him and winning basketball games.”

Williams also addressed the notion that this situation is similar to when Donald Sterling got in trouble as team owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for making racist remarks. He noted the difference is there was actual proof of Sterling’s remarks in a conversation he had that was recorded.

“I feel like, you know, situations are different,” Suns guard Chris Paul, a member of that Clippers team, said. “We dealt with that in that time when all that happened. I think right now… we’re not insensitive to everything that was said or whatnot, but we don’t know all the details. So, the NBA will do its investigation and in that time all of us on our team will continue to play and do what we do.”  

The ESPN story doesn’t have that kind of evidence in relation to Sarver, but the NBA did announce an investigation will be conducted.

“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton law firm to commence a comprehensive investigation,” NBA executive vice president of communications Mike Bass said. “The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees. Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”

Williams is waiting on the results of the investigation in helping see the situation more clearly.

“We’ll know more once that is settled,” Williams said.

Booker echoed Williams’ sentiments after Thursday’s game. 

“I think the NBA opened an investigation. They’re going to do their due-diligence of bringing out facts instead of he-said, she-said,” Booker said. “I’m sure the NBA has it in good hands and (will) do the proper research to find out the truth.” 

Williams talked about how team ownership was a big deal for him when taking the position as Suns head coach before the 2019-20 season. At the time he was hired, Williams said Sarver admitted to some past mistakes he made in their talks.

“To say that ownership didn’t play a big deal in my decision to come here, that would be false,” Williams said. “It was. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have the partnership and the relationship that I had with Robert the past two years.”

Williams said he hasn’t talked to Sarver since the story was published, but had talked to him previously in reaction to a tweet forecasting the story.

“There’s still these two sides,” Williams said. “It’s hard for me to process and come to an conclusion, but I have communicated with Robert.”

Williams said he understands if his players are uneasy about playing in this situation, but the Suns took the floor for Thursday’s game against Houston and won 123-111.

“I’m OK with that,” Williams said. “I think when you’re going through times like this, everybody’s emotions need to be validated and heard and respected,” Williams said. “And every situation that we’ve been in where stuff has come up and players feel uneasy about something, I tell them right away, ‘If you don’t want to play, that’s fine.’ “

Said Paul: “I’ve been through a few situations in my time in the league. The powers that be, they look into it, they do their investigations and whatnot. But I think the biggest thing that I learned in all these years is that us, as a team, we gotta talk. It’s not about what everybody else is saying, what everybody else telling you to do or what you should do. It’s about how we feel as a team, as a unit, coaching staff, everybody within the organization.”

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