NBA player Luol Deng was the target of a racial slur made by Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry in a team meeting in July.
Ferry, who apologized on Tuesday while saying the slur came when he was “repeating comments” made by others in scouting reports, told team executives 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.”
In a thoughtfully prepared statement Tuesday night, Deng turned the slur around on Ferry.
“I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little,'” he wrote.
Here’s the full letter, which is tremendous (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
“HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM
“These words were recently used to describe me. It would ordinarily make any African parent proud to hear their child recognised for their heritage.
“I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just “a little.” For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can do no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.
“Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am 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.
“However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren’t comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organisation or league.
“Ultimately, I’m thankful to be with an organisation that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.”
Deng signed a two-year, $US20 million deal with the Heat in July. He April he won the league’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his charity work in Sudan.
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