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Danny Ferry on Luol Deng: He has African in him, would sell you counterfeit stuff

Danny Ferry Hawks

Danny Ferry looked like he was going to escape the Atlanta Hawks scandal without losing his job, but now that might not be the case.

On Sunday, word came through that Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson would be selling his stake in the team after a 2012 internal email he sent was shared with the league. In the email, Levenson talked in open terms about the demographics of the Hawks’ fan base and how to make the product appeal to more white fans.

We learned early on Monday that the investigation into the team came as a result of some comments Ferry made about Luol Deng while discussing free agents with some of the team’s owners. It was originally reported that Ferry said Deng had “some African in him.”

Now WSBTV in Atlanta provides more details about Ferry’s analysis of Deng. This comes via an email Hawks minority owner J. Michael Gearon, Jr. sent in a June 12 email to Levenson.

With respect to one potential free agent, a highly-regarded African-American player and humanitarian, Ferry talked about the player’s good points, and then on to describe his negatives, stating that “he has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out the back.” Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly, all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.

You can read the full text of the email at this PDF link.

In the email, Gearon called for Ferry to lose his job. Ferry was only subjected to an undisclosed punishment by the team and nothing from the league. The team defended him by saying he was only repeating what was written about Deng in a scouting report and not sharing a personal, racist opinion.

If there is enough backlash in response to this letter getting released, Ferry might be pushed out.

It sure seems to me that a minority owner or two really wants control of the team and has decided to go about it in this way. I don’t think their motivations were innocent.

Luol Deng scouting report sparked Hawks investigation

Luol DengA racist remark about then-free agent Luol Deng led to an investigation of the Atlanta Hawks which resulted in the determination that owner Bruce Levenson would be selling his stake in the team, a report says.

According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Hawks GM Danny Ferry made a comment about Deng’s cultural background during a conference call with the team’s owners to discuss potential free agent signings.

“He’s still a young guy overall,” Ferry said on the call, according to Woj. “He’s a good guy overall. But he’s not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way.”

Apparently that comment from Ferry was said on a call with seven of the team’s owners. One of the owners was concerned enough by that comment that he hired a firm to conduct an independent investigation into the organization. That’s how the now-infamous email from Levenson was discovered.

Ferry reached out to Deng and the player’s agent on Monday to apologize for the comments.

Deng had interest from the Hawks but signed with the Miami Heat.

The NBA and other Hawks owners decided it would be best for Levenson to sell his share in the team. That announcement was made on Sunday.

My initial suspicion when I heard the story on Sunday was that one of the other owners leaked the email because he wanted to push out Levenson. Whether that was motivated by concerns about Levenson’s character or other reasons, that owner got his way.

Hawks owner Bruce Levenson selling stake in team after revelation of racist email

Nelly-Bruce-LevensonAtlanta 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.

Atlanta Hawks don’t care about the playoffs

Mike-BudenholzerThe chances of a No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed in the first round of the NBA playoffs are not very good. It almost never happens. Because of that, the Atlanta Hawks seem genuinely disinterested in qualifying for the postseason.

Thanks in large part to unfortunate injuries, the Hawks have gone 8-21 since the start of February. They were once a middle-of-the-pack team in the Eastern Conference, but Al Horford’s torn pectoral muscle inevitably took the wind out of Atlanta’s sail. Despite that, the Hawks are just a game behind the New York Knicks for the eighth spot in the East. General manager Danny Ferry doesn’t care.

“Candidly, I don’t pay the amount of attention to the standings that you would expect,” Ferry told the New York Times earlier this week.

And this isn’t one of those “we’re taking it one game at a time” type of deals. The Hawks really don’t seem to care whether they make the playoffs or their season ends in two weeks.

“Our goal is not to be the eighth seed,” Ferry added. “We’re really just focused on building our habits. I know the standings. There’s not a lot of time and energy I put into it. Getting in or not getting in, I don’t think of it that way.”

That attitude has trickled down to some of the players. Forward DeMarre Carroll basically echoed what his GM said.

“I don’t think it’d be that big of a deal,” Carroll said. “Nobody expected us to be in the top eight. Our biggest thing is, don’t worry about the playoffs. It’s about building the system.”

In other words, the Hawks don’t think they have a chance. Getting sharpshooter Kyle Korver — who admitted he keeps his eye on the standings — back should give the team a boost. He and fellow guard Lou Williams seem to care a bit more than others.

“As players, our job is to win games,” Williams said. “The playoffs come with winning games. So, yes, it’s important.”

Things are looking better for the Knicks by the day. At least they have the right attitude about the final stretch of the season.

Atlanta Hawks Twitter jabs Tony Romo for late-game play

Tony Romo turnovers

Tony Romo was taking heat from all angles following his choke job against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Even the Atlanta Hawks’ Twitter account jabbed the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, who threw two interceptions in the final three minutes of a 37-36 loss, by sending this tweet:

That photo was from Al Horford’s game-winning shot to beat the Washington Wizards 101-99 in overtime on Friday night.

As our friend DJ Gallo said, I’m not sure why a historically mediocre franchise like the Atlanta Hawks are trolling Romo, but that’s how bad things are for the Cowboys right now. The Cowboys should respond by flashing their Super Bowl rings.

Atlanta Hawks respond to Trail Blazers’ Twitter diss

Trail Blazers logoThe Atlanta Hawks responded on Twitter Wednesday to a diss by the Portland Trail Blazers’ Twitter account earlier in the day.

The Trail Blazers, who lead the Western Conference with a 16-3 record after beating the OKC Thunder on Wednesday, sent out this message:

That was a reference to the strength of the conference, which has 12 of 15 teams with records of .500-or-better. The Eastern Conference only has three such teams now that the Hawks beat the Los Angeles Clippers 107-97 to get to .500 for the season.

After their win over one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Hawks sent a tweet to the Blazers that linked to the box score from their game against the Clips:

Well played, Hawks. But I’m not so sure why the Blazers are talking this mess. It’s not like they’d beat the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in a playoff series anyway, so how much would it really help them to be in the East?

Atlanta Hawks may have tampered via Dwight Howard, Chris Paul letter

Chris Paul ClippersThe Atlanta Hawks may have jumped the gun a bit by using the names of impending free agents in an attempt to boost their ticket sales, and the NBA could make them pay for it. A recent letter that was sent to prospective ticket buyers hyped up the possibility of Atlanta making a run at Dwight Howard and Chris Paul this offseason. Both Howard and Paul are under contract with other teams.

Per NBA rules, teams are not permitted to speak publicly about players who are under contract with other teams until they officially become free agents on July 1.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the letter was headilined “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.” The opening statement read as follows: “The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up. With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality.”

The letter also included a link to a story about Paul being unhappy with the Clippers over the notion that he forced the team to fire former coach Vinny Del Negro. It told fans to snatch up tickets before the Hawks make their “signings” and “there will be no seats left.”

Hawks president Bob Williams issued a statement on Tuesday acknowledging that the team has in all likelihood committed a rules violation, but stressed that it was a team employee who authored the letter on his own.

“The letter that has been referred to was written by one of our season-ticket reps of his own volition,” the statement said. “While certainly he is a member of our business staff, his specific reference clearly does not represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency. It is unfortunate that this mistake, by a single ticket rep with no ill intent, occurred.”

You would think the team would proofread outgoing letters a little more carefully for reasons like this. In any event, the Hawks will probably be looking at a hefty fine. Paul may be upset with the Clippers and Howard may be leaning toward leaving LA, but Atlanta should have waited another month or so to start using that speculation as a marketing tool.