Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Levenson Isn't Racist, Just a Businessman

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Levenson Isn't Racist, Just a Businessman

Hall of Famer says Hawks owner worst crime is "misguided white guilt."

Published September 10, 2014

After reading embattled Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson's email, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wants to make a few things clear. The Hall of Famer admits that "there are assumptions that Levenson makes that are cringeworthy," but that Levenson is not a racist. Instead, Abdul-Jabbar says that Levenson is reasonably expressing concerns of a businessman.

In an article he recently wrote for TIME, Abdul-Jabbar says that Levenson's worst crime is "misguided white guilt." 

"I read Levenson’s email," Abdul-Jabbar writes in the article. "Here’s what I concluded: Levenson is a businessman asking reasonable questions about how to put customers in seats. In the email, addressed to Hawks president Danny Ferry, Levenson wonders whether (according to his observations) the emphasis on hip-hop and gospel music and the fact that the cheerleaders are black, the bars are filled with 90% blacks, kiss cams focus on black fans and time-out contestants are always black has an effect on keeping away white fans. 

"Seems reasonable to ask those questions," he continues. "If his arena was filled mostly with whites and he wanted to attract blacks, wouldn’t he be asking how they could de-emphasize white culture and bias toward white contestants and cheerleaders? Don’t you think every corporation in America that is trying to attract a more diverse customer base is discussing how to feature more blacks or Asians or Latinos in their TV ads?"

The originator of the "sky hook" goes on to state, however, that some of Levenson's statements in the August 2012 email did make him cringe. "For example: '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.' On the other hand, I have no evidence that he’s wrong on either count. Even if he is, the question still needed to be raised, because racism is a realistic possibility as to why whites in Atlanta may not be coming."

Levenson announced that he'll be selling his controlling interest of the Hawks over the weekend after an August 2012 email, in which he shares his inappropriate thoughts, surfaced.

Do you agree with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Is Levenson's email more of "misguided white guilt" or racism? 

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(Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images, AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Written by BET-Staff

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