Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson has agreed to sell the NBA team after offensive remarks he made two years ago came to light.
One of the team’s stakeholders demanded an investigation after the team’s general manager, Danny Ferry, recited comments regarding an NBA player. The investigation yielded the email, which contains comments about those who attend Hawks games.
The email, which was sent to Ferry and copied to several of Levenson’s partners, had numerous comments that could be considered racist when discussing the atmosphere at Hawks games. In it, Levenson suggested changes that he thought would potentially attract more white ticket buyers. It included the following passages:
“I think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority” and “I have been open with our executive team about these concerns. I have told them I want some white cheerleaders and while I don’t care what the color of the artist is, I want the music to be music familiar to a 40 year old white guy if that’s our season [tickets] demo. I have also balked when every fan picked out of crowd to shoot shots in some timeout contest is black. I have even [complained] that the kiss cam is too black.”
The Hawks’ ownership group has a cluster of owners based in Atlanta and a cluster based in Washington, D.C., that includes Levenson. The group, which operates as Atlanta Spirit LLC, has been divided frequently since it bought the team in 2005.
There have been lawsuits among owners over personnel decisions, a failed sale attempt of the Hawks in 2011 and Atlanta Spirit’s sale and relocation of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, Manitoba, that same year.
After Levenson’s email was found, the Hawks informed the NBA, which launched its own investigation. Within the past week, sources said, the details of the email became known to several other owners and league officials as Silver discussed the league’s options.
Although the NBA has not forced Levenson to sell, he has volunteered to do so.
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