Hawks owner to sell team following racist remarks - CBS46 News

Hawks owner to sell team following racist remarks

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Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson said Sunday that he will sell his controlling interest in the NBA team.

In a statement, Levenson admits to making racist remarks when contemplating how to bring a more diverse crowd to the basketball games.

Here is his statement in its entirety:

"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. 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 e-mail 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.

If you're angry about what I wrote, you should be. I'm angry at myself, too. 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.

I have said repeatedly that the NBA should have zero tolerance for racism, and I strongly believe that to be true. That is why I voluntarily reported my inappropriate e-mail to the NBA.

After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise.

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin will oversee all team operations and take all organizational reports as we proceed with the sale process.

I'm truly embarrassed by my words in that e-mail, and I apologize to the members of the Hawks family and all of our fans.

To the Hawks family and its fans, you have my deepest gratitude for the past ten years. Working with this team and its extraordinary executives, coaching staff, and players has been one of the highlights of my life. I am proud of our diverse, passionate, and growing legion of Hawks fans, and I will continue to join you in cheering for the best team in the NBA."

The following statement was released by Hawks President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Danny Ferry:

"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.

"In terms of the email that Bruce sent, the situation is disturbing and disappointing on many levels and I understand Bruce's words were offensive.

"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."

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed responded to Levenson's remarks with the following statement:

"The published remarks made by Atlanta Hawks Controlling Owner Bruce Levenson are reprehensible and offensive. The statements do not represent the City of Atlanta's history of diversity and inclusion, and we will be clear and deliberate in denouncing and repudiating them. I applaud the NBA's efforts to enforce a no-tolerance policy of discrimination. As a city, we will continue to stand behind the Atlanta Hawks organization as they work to find new ownership that reflects the values and ideals of a city that is too busy to hate."

In April, former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life for allegedly making racist comments.

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