Atlanta Hawks minority owner Michael Gearon wanted general manager Danny Ferry fired after he made a racist remark in a meeting in June, according to a letter sent to majority owner Bruce Levenson that was obtained by WSBTV in Atlanta.
The letter led to an internal investigation that ultimately revealed a racially insensitive 2012 email that Levenson sent Ferry. Levenson has since decided to sell his ownership stake.
In his letter, Gearon says Ferry made inappropriate comments about free agent Luol Deng on a conference call with team executives, which he recorded. Gearson claims that Ferry said that Deng “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.”
From the letter (which you can read in full below):
“With respect to one potential free agent, a highly-regarded African-American player and humanitarian, Ferry talked about the player’s good points, 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 person of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.”
Ferry acknowledged that he made the comments in a statement, but also claimed that he was “repeating comments” from another, unnamed source.
Here’s Ferry’s statement:
“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 apologise to those I offended and to Luol [Deng], 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 organisation; 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 is one of the most respected players in the NBA.
Here’s Gearon’s full letter about the Ferry incident:
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