UPDATE 9/12/2014 at 4:30 p.m. ET: Danny Ferry has now decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from the Atlanta Hawks, following the release of an audio recording of his comments. In a statement, Ferry said, “I will maximize my time during this leave to meet with community leaders and further educate myself and others on the extremely sensitive issues surrounding race, diversity, and inclusion. I will find a way to make a positive difference in this area, and further learn from the sensitivity training that I will go through.”
UPDATE 9/12/2014 at 11:30 a.m. ET: The Atlanta Journal Constitution has obtained an audio recording of a portion of the conference call on which Danny Ferry spoke. The quality is not good, but the portion dealing with Luol Deng starts around the 1:10 mark.
By Albert Lin
Although Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson has said he will sell his share of the team because of a racist email, team General Manager Danny Ferry will keep his job despite making a racist misstep of his own.
The independent investigation into Ferry’s comments is what uncovered the two-year-old email written by Levenson.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski initially reported, citing league sources, that Ferry referred to free-agent forward Luol Denga South Sudan native who was raised in England and played high school and college basketball in the United Statesthusly: “He’s still a young guy overall. 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.”
On Monday night, WSB-TV’s Zach Klein obtained a June 12 letter from Hawks minority owner Michael Gearon to Levenson, in which Gearon calls for Ferry’s firing. In it, Gearon goes into greater detail about what Ferry said on a conference call with members of management and ownership.
“Ferry talked about the player’s good points,” the letter reads, “and then went 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 of 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.”
CEO Steve Koonin, who is running the team in Levenson’s absence, said that Ferry has been disciplined in an undisclosed manner but will remain Atlanta’s general manager. Koonin also said that Ferry was reading from a background report and that the words were not his.
“It was not from our team,” Koonin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was word of mouth. It was background information. Something was shared with Danny that was shared with the group.”
Ferrywho is white and who attended the same college, Duke, as Dengissued a statement on Tuesday that read in part: “In regards to the insensitive remarks that were used during our due diligence process, I was repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources during background conversations and scouting about different players. I repeated those comments during a telephone conversation reviewing the draft and free agency process. Those words do not reflect my views, or words that I would use to describe an individual, and I certainly regret it. I apologize to those I offended and to Luol, who I reached out to Monday morning.
“I am committed to learning from this and deeply regret this situation. I fully understand we have work to do in order to help us create a better organization; one that our players and fans will be proud of, on and off the court, and that is where my focus is moving forward.”
Deng issued his own statement, which read in part: “I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting. However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren’t comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organization or league.
“Ultimately, I’m thankful to be with an organization that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.”
Deng ended up signing with the Miami Heat.