Another Donald Sterling? Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is selling his controlling interest in the franchise, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced to the media on Sunday.
Two months ago, Levenson blew the whistle on an email he wrote to the Hawks’ co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry in August 2012 that he declared “inappropriate and offensive.” Levenson’s statements in the email about trying to diversify Atlanta’s racial sports scene and bolster fan attendance for the Hawks were racially charged against African-Americans.
"My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base,'' Levenson said in the August 2012 email released Sunday by the Hawks. "Please don't get me wrong. There was nothing threatening going on in the arena back then. I never felt uncomfortable, but I think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.''
That statement is why Levenson is selling his share of the Hawks.
"In trying to address those issues, I wrote an email two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive," he wrote in a statement to the media, including ESPN. "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 added 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."
The Hawks will become the third NBA franchise to hit the open market this year after the Milwaukee Bucks fetched $550 million and the Los Angeles Clippers were purchased for $2 billion after Sterling was banned for life for his own racist comments against African-Americans.
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(Photo: AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)