Hawks GM Danny Ferry to take leave of absence - CBS46 News

Hawks GM Danny Ferry to take leave of absence

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Danny Ferry (Photo from NBA) Danny Ferry (Photo from NBA)
ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry is taking a leave of absence from the team following chaos surrounding a controversial scouting report he allegedly read.

Ferry made an inflammatory assessment of NBA player Luol Deng during a conference call with the Hawks' ownership group in June as the team was pursuing the free agent. The GM described Deng as someone who "has a little African in him."

"He's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back," Ferry said on the call, which was recorded.

Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan, signed with the Miami Heat but didn't know if Ferry's comments until this week.

Deng said he was proud of his African roots, while adding he was "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."

Koonin said Ferry was disciplined for his comments, but refused to disclose the punishment. Both Ferry and Koonin have said the GM was merely repeating statements made by others in scouting reports on Deng.

Former NBA great Magic Johnson is among those who have recommended that Ferry step down.

An internal investigation into Ferry's comments uncovered an unrelated email sent two years ago by the team's controlling owner, Bruce Levenson, who theorized that black fans were keeping suburban white fans from attending games.

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin also announced that the team will hire a chief diversity officer, and that head coach Mike Budenholzer will take over basketball operations.

Koonin released the following statement:

"This afternoon, Danny Ferry requested, and I have approved, taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family and it is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing. As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process.

"While the issues related to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of this dispute is an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners. That said, we have taken several steps to address what we can do as an organization to be better and stronger, including working with a diversity consultant to examine us and to train us to ensure something like this never happens again, we are committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, and we have and will continue to meet with community leaders in an ongoing way to ensure our values reflect the community in which we play and work. The process of selling the team, which is to remain in Atlanta, is already underway.

"Effective immediately, our Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer, will assume oversight of the basketball operations department. He will report directly to me.

"I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that this has put a blemish on our team and our city, which has always been a diverse community with a history of coming together as one.  We should build bridges through basketball, not divide our community or serve as a source of pain."

Ferry released the following statement:

"No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng.

Luol is a good man who I have known for many years and he has done a tremendous amount of good for his country and around the world.  I apologize to Luol and I apologize to all that I have offended. As I have said, while these were not my words, I deeply regret repeating them.  Almost all the background information I provided during the lengthy presentation regarding Luol was positive and my personal and professional recommendation during the call was very much in favor of adding Luol to our team but I never should have uttered those offensive remarks and for that I apologize.

My focus moving forward is to tirelessly work to rebuild trust with this community and with our fans. I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me.  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."

 

Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.