Hawks GM Danny Ferry’s comments about Luol Deng led to owner’s ouster
By Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry’s comments that were deemed offensive and racist by team CEO Steve Koonin were made about veteran NBA forward Luol Deng, a person familiar with the details told USA TODAY Sports. Those comments sparked an investigation that ultimately led majority owner Bruce Levenson to say he’s selling his stake in the team.
The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive nature of the situation.
Reading from a player profile report compiled from input by multiple internal and external sources, Ferry said Deng, “is still a young guy overall. He is a good guy overall. But he is not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way,” according to the person.
Ferry will be punished by the Hawks, too, according to the person familiar with the situation. Ferry could have avoided the situation by editing or not reading that comment about Deng.
Deng, who from Sudan, is considered one of the hardest workers in the NBA and one of the league’s good guys. In April, he was given the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. He is a two-time All-Star and spent the first nine-plus years of his career with the Chicago Bulls. He was traded to Cleveland last season and signed with the Miami Heat this summer.
Ferry apologized to Deng’s agent, Ron Shade, according to Yahoo Sports.
Ferry’s comments were made during a basketball operations meeting to discuss free agents and a team owner flagged the comment. Ferry’s words triggered the internal investigation which unearthed Levenson’s 2012 e-mail in which he made multiple racially insensitive comments about Hawks fans.
Levenson said Sunday he will sell his controlling interest in the Hawks. In an apologetic news release, Levenson said, “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.”
Acting NBPA executive director Ron Klempner released a statement regarding the issue with the Hawks Monday.
“We’ve had continuing discussions with the league office about the incidents of disturbing statements attributed to representatives of the Atlanta Hawks’ franchise. We recognize that there is an ongoing investigation regarding the circumstances, and we will continue to monitor these events and take any action we deem appropriate.”