You see, in July, Levenson self-reported an email he wrote to the team’s co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry in August 2012 that he called “inappropriate and offensive.”
And what exactly were those comments? Well, via a statement, Levenson says his racially offensive comments came as he pondered ways to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide and increase fan attendance at Hawks’ games.
“In trying to address those issues, I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive,” he said. “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,” Levenson continued in the statement. “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.”
Levenson notified NBA Commissioner Adam Silver of his intentions to sell on Saturday night
“I commend Mr. Levenson for self-reporting to the league office, for being fully cooperative with the league and its independent investigator, and for putting the best interests of the Hawks, the Atlanta community, and the NBA first,” Silver said in a statement.
Levenson had presided over the Hawks’ ownership group since 2004. According to ESPN, the Hawks, over the past decade, has never ranked higher than 18th in attendance and is largely overlooked in a market that also has the NFL, Major League Baseball and a passion for college football.
And of course, the Rev. Al Sharpton couldn’t let this moment go by without offering his and his NAN/National Action Network’s thoughts on the matter:
“The announcement by Bruce Levenson is welcomed and appropriate by those of us in the civil rights community, that raised the issue of Donald Sterling’s need to be removed, and that other owners must be held accountable.
Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA, following that strong recommendation from us after meeting with Mark Morial of the National Urban League, Melanie Campbell of the Black Women’s Roundtable, Cornel Brooks and myself; has now forced another owner out of the closet of racial intolerance into the daylight of public accountability.
We strongly urge the Commissioner to continue vetting all owners. We at NAN also urge the Commissioner to deal with lack of minority ownership in the NBA as these franchises become available, and their policies of doing business with minorities must be part of the package. Otherwise we are just trading billionaires for billionaires, rather than changing unfair exclusion for a better policy. We intend to meet with the Commissioner again to continue this process.”
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