The Atlanta Hawks are finally making some big offseason headlines. Unfortunately they are the topic of conversation for all the wrong reasons. This started with an email that was released by one of the owners Bruce Levenson. In an email he wrote 2 years ago, the man with controlling interest in the Hawks made some disturbing comments about the racial makeup of the club’s fan base.
The email was self reported by the Hawks organization as a part of an internal investigation that was sparked by a racist statement by General Manager Danny Ferry. Where Ferry read comments on a free agent scouting report out loud that says “he has a little bit of African in him”. Levenson has announced that he will sell his control of the team and they have announced that Ferry will be punished.
The issue between the both of them is that what Ferry did is far worse. Its good idea for Levenson to hit the background but he needs to take good old Danny with him. Now both of these things will get compared to the Donald Sterling incident and here is where they are different. Sterling was being recorded without his knowledge in a private conversation. Not that it makes it right or that Sterling shouldn’t have been punished but it was on his off time. Levenson and Ferry were both handling Atlanta Hawks business and expressing their racism on company time.
The email that Levenson sent seems like it has good intention at first. He is trying to figure out how to increase attendance at Hawks games. (here is a link to the Email)
In this rant he sends to Danny Ferry and two members of the group he breaks down the demographics of the Hawks and the crowd that comes to the arena. His belief is that the crowd is too black and that is alienating the southern whites with money from coming down to Phillips Arena. Not only are the crowds too black but so is the music, cheerleaders and so are the bars around the building. It is true that the majority of the Hawks fan base is African American but maybe what Mr Levenson is unfamiliar with is that the city and even a lot of the surrounding suburbs are predominantly black.
There is a point in his statement where he does call out what he perceives to be racist behavior. I will agree with him on this point. I do think that a lot of black people in one area is scaring to a lot white people. I have had conversations with people about not only downtown sport venues but Turner Field where the Braves play. There are conversations about the safety of the area and how its “dangerous down there”. Mr Levenson points out that there has not been a known incident of robbery or any kind of violence during or after a game at the arena. When they say the neighborhood is rough or the complaints about hip hop crowd that is code word for black people.
Good old Bruce goes wrong in a few places in this letter to his buddies. First his solution is not how to embrace his fans but to get rid of some of them to make it more appealing to more white people. See in his mind there are not enough affluent black people around to support the merchandising and season ticket numbers the organization wants to hit. That is false on so many levels and pretty much he is saying that black people come to his games with no money.
He also hits winners like the stadium has to pipe in music at the beginning of games because the crowd always arrives late. You know because of course those black people who come to the games are not going to be on time. We know how the Negroes roll right?
We even get to hear how he doesn’t see fathers and sons attending games. I find that particularly funny because my dad took me to all the Hawks that I have attended over the years. I am sure this is part of Levenson’s ideology of what black people are and what he perceives they cannot provide for him. He wants everything less black. He needs the cheerleaders to be whiter, the music to be whiter and a more white audience. Apparently the green money that his audience provides is not good enough.
What Bruce doesn’t seem to get is that the arena is not as full as he wants it to be because he has failed. He and Ferry have not provided an on court product that will win the heart of the city. White people have no problems in Atlanta mingling with black fans at Braves and Falcons games. There have been constant years of mediocrity, which is no way to excite the fan base. The NBA is a star drive league and the Hawks have not had a A+ star since Dominque Wilkins.
Now at least Levenson knows he has to go. As of right now nobody has announced what’s exactly going to happen to old Danny boy. During a conference call discussing free agents Danny Ferry said about potential free agent Luol Deng, “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.” From there Ferry goes on to talk of a guy who would sell you fake goods in the back of his store.
How can the Hawks attract a free agent when the guy they are supposed to talk to has some racist views? Now Ferry has attempted to deflect says that he was just reading a report out loud. This doesn’t jive with me because if you are reading this then you know not say this. Ferry is a smart man; I mean he went to Duke. So it’s hard for me to believe that he was just being mindless and reading along. Ferry has not been lighting it up as a general manager prior to this. His claim to fame is that he was the general manager in Cleveland that couldn’t get Lebron any help. For the overall health of the future of the Hawks, Ferry has to go.
Keith B. Holt
Follow on Twitter @Kholtjr