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.
The 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.
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.”
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.
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?
The 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.
With the Celtics leading the Hawks 3-2 in the opening round of the playoffs and Game 6 Thursday night in Boston, Atlanta will need to play their best basketball to earn a trip back home for Game 7. The Hawks were destroyed in every phase of the game during a Game 4 loss the last time they played in Boston, and they can’t afford to let that happen again. According to Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon, Atlanta has gotten no help from the officials.
“On top of all that, we don’t get any calls, which I know everybody always hears,” Gearon said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I’ll give you a stat. Last night, we are playing this old physical team. They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball, old guys foul. (Kevin) Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league. We are playing Boston last night and they had two fouls the whole first half. We had five times that and we’re athletic.”
Gearon is not the first person to call K.G. a dirty player and he certainly won’t be the last, so Garnett will probably let that go in one ear and out the other. The stuff about old guys fouling, however, may motivate the Celtics. Boston was successful down the stretch this season because they were one of the best defensive teams in the league. Unless every official they have had has missed the fact that old guys foul a lot, Gearon’s reasoning seems a bit flawed.
If the Hawks think they are going to get calls based on their reputation of being athletic versus the Celtics’ reputation of being old and run-down, they’re wrong. As old as the Celtics are, they are also loaded with Hall of Famers and have earned the respect of the league and its officials. Guys like K.G., Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce are going to get the benefit of the doubt with calls that could go either way. That is the nature of professional sports.
Charles Barkley is not a fan of the Atlanta Hawks. He made that clear on Thursday night when he was serving as a commentator during the Hawks-Heat game on TNT. What does he believe is the problem with Atlanta? They’re not hood enough.
“I think the Atlanta Hawks got too many nice guys, that’s one of their bigger problems,” Barkley said. “They got some good players, but some of their guys just really nice guys. You’ve got to have some hood in you. You’ve got to have some hood in you to be a great player.”
The comment sure is funny, but like many things Barkley says, it’s offensive, not to mention inaccurate. Last I checked, Dirk wasn’t hood but he won a championship last year. Tim Duncan has won four rings and I don’t think people consider him hood. How bout Dwyane Wade? He’s a great player, but I don’t think he’s hood either.
Back on April 10th, the Chicago Bulls beat the Orlando Magic 102-99. The game took place just before the regular season ended at a time when playoff seeds were already determined. After the loss, Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said to Derrick Rose “catch you in the second round.” Here’s that video:
Hearing Nelson say that was pretty stunning because he was guaranteeing both teams would win their first-round series. Chicago took care of business against Indiana, but the Magic lost to the Hawks in six games. Don’t think for a second that Hawks employees forgot about Nelson’s guarantee. They let him hear about it.
Hawks P.R. man Arthur Triche left tickets at will call for Nelson to attend Game 1 of the Hawks-Bulls series … as a spectator. Here’s a picture of the tickets Triche tweeted out courtesy of TNSP Sports Net:
The Atlanta Hawks polished off the Orlando Magic 4-2 in their first-round series of the NBA Playoffs. The Hawks were leading the series 3-1 but lost Game 5 to Orlando, prompting the series to go to a sixth game. It was then that Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi crushed the Hawks in his column and declared the Magic would win.
Some of the highlights from the column:
The Magic are going to win this series and the Birdbrains are going to fold up and collapse like a $5 lawn chair. You know it, I know it and deep down in the lonely recesses of their fragile minds, the Birdbrains know it, too.
No matter how much talent they have, the Hawks are still the Hawks. They are still Team Dummy. They will always do stupid things and take stupid shots. They will always lose their focus and their composure
Perhaps it was Bango’s resilience in returning from a knee injury to throw down an incredible dunk that has inspired the Milwaukee Bucks. Maybe they received a shot in the arm after their star center Andrew Bogut went down with a gruesome elbow injury that has prevented him from seeing any playoff action to this point. Whatever the case, after taking the first two games of their opening round series with Milwaukee, the Atlanta Hawks now trail the series 3-2 and find themselves on the brink of elimination.
The nail may have been driven into the coffin Wednesday night, when Atlanta blew a nine-point lead with 3:55 left to play in the game. Yes, I understand that it’s a seven-game series and you play the games for a reason, but if you believe that there is such a thing as momentum in an NBA playoff series, the Hawks could be finished. Atlanta is now forced to head to Milwaukee — where the noise in the Bradley Center is certain to be deafening — and either win and go home (to play Game 7), or lose and go home (to play golf).
The way this series has played out is kind of ironic, don’t you think? Two years ago, the Hawks were the underdogs, pushing the powerhouse team to seven games when no one gave them a chance. The No. 1 seeded Celtics — who later went on to beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals — took care of business at home and lead the series 2-0 before heading to Atlanta. The Hawks then clawed their way back and found themselves with a chance to knock off the future champs, but lost Game 7 in Boston. Sometimes it’s not easy being the favorite, and you’ve got to think Atlanta now has a pretty good understanding of that concept. We’ll see if they can handle the pressure the way the Celtics did two years ago.