Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson announced on Sunday morning that he will sell his stake in the team after the revelation of a racially-charged email he sent in 2012. Levenson and NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the news with statements.
In the email, Levenson made several comments stereotyping African-American fans.
“Over the past several years, I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with low attendance at our games and the need for the Hawks to attract more season ticket holders and corporate sponsors,” Levenson said, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. “Over that time, I’ve talked with team executives about the need for the Hawks to build a more diverse fan base that includes more suburban whites, and I shared my thoughts on why our efforts to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide seemed to be failing.
“In trying to address those issues, I wrote an email two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e. hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e. that white fans might be afraid of our black fans). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans.”
Silver said the league was made aware of Levenson’s email in July and launched an investigation. Considering the revelation came just months after Donald Sterling’s racist audio recording was released, Levenson’s decision to sell his less than 50% share in the Hawks is not a surprise.
“If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be. I’m angry at myself, too,” Levenson added. “It was inflammatory nonsense. We all may have subtle biases and preconceptions when it comes to race, but my role as a leader is to challenge them, not to validate or accommodate those who might hold them.”
You can read the full text of Levenson’s 2012 email here.