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  1. #1

    Atlanta Hawks Majority Owner to Sell Team Due to racist email

    Bruce Levenson has released a statement indicating he will sell his stake in the Hawks due to racist comments he made in an email sent to general manager Danny Ferry and others.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/07/us/nba-hawks-levenson-racist-email/index.html?c=&page=1

  2. #2
    This Washington Post article states that Danny Ferry will also face disciplinary action for racially offensive comments he made during a meeting.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/nation...a37_story.html

  3. #3
    It appears from the Atlanta sports blogs an investigation was ordered by one of the other six owners. Consider that this is an ownership group that has fought continuously among themselves (the DC contingent which Levenson is a part of and the Atlanta contingent). Also, other owners were addressed on the very same email that is in question from Levenson. This scandal could be a very good way to purge your ownership group of one of your rivals or even to intentionally force a sale because of it. It's a nice strategy to order an investigation of your rival when you already know the email that will turn up. This is much better for appearances than outing Levenson yourself and admitting that you did nothing after reading the initial email. Very Machiavellian.

    As for Ferry, his involvement is that he was the main recipient of the email, and secondly and the reason for the discipline, it appears Ferry didn't edit completely a racist comment from a scouting report done by a 3rd party for the team during a prep meeting for free agency.

  4. #4
    Has the discipline action towards Ferry been covered in a press link yet?

    One point of note in the original link, Levenson's comments about the DC Verizon Center employees/courtesy vs the Phillips employees. The Verizon Center is a hell hole.
    Nothing incites bodily violence quicker than a Duke fan turning in your direction and saying 'scoreboard.'

  5. #5
    This perspective from Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, who has been a regular contributor to Time recently

    Bruce Levenson Isnít a Racist, Heís a Businessman
    http://time.com/3296175/bruce-levens...-abdul-jabbar/

    And this from Jeff Schulz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on how the e-mail being released now raises a number of questions

    But why is Levenson suddenly throwing himself on the sword now? Was there some reason to think the email was going to become public?...

    Levenson could have been looking for a reason to sell, anyway...

    Even the Milwaukee Bucks, who are in a smaller television market than the Hawks, sold in April for $550 million.


    http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/bas...645611.735484

    The alleged Danny Ferry comments may be more troubling - he appeared to be turning the constantly dysfunctional Hawks around, but depending what was said his comments may be not just offensive but a factor in attracting free agents

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atlanta Duke View Post
    This perspective from Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, who has been a regular contributor to Time recently

    Bruce Levenson Isnít a Racist, Heís a Businessman
    http://time.com/3296175/bruce-levens...-abdul-jabbar/

    And this from Jeff Schulz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on how the e-mail being released now raises a number of questions

    But why is Levenson suddenly throwing himself on the sword now? Was there some reason to think the email was going to become public?...

    Levenson could have been looking for a reason to sell, anyway...

    Even the Milwaukee Bucks, who are in a smaller television market than the Hawks, sold in April for $550 million.


    http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/bas...645611.735484

    The alleged Danny Ferry comments may be more troubling - he appeared to be turning the constantly dysfunctional Hawks around, but depending what was said his comments may be not just offensive but a factor in attracting free agents
    Might as well cash in when even secondary teams in major markets are selling for $2 billion...

    I'm sure he's not the only owner who has made those sorts of statements.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Quote Originally Posted by Atlanta Duke View Post
    This perspective from Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, who has been a regular contributor to Time recently

    Bruce Levenson Isnít a Racist, Heís a Businessman
    http://time.com/3296175/bruce-levens...-abdul-jabbar/

    And this from Jeff Schulz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on how the e-mail being released now raises a number of questions

    But why is Levenson suddenly throwing himself on the sword now? Was there some reason to think the email was going to become public?...

    Levenson could have been looking for a reason to sell, anyway...

    Even the Milwaukee Bucks, who are in a smaller television market than the Hawks, sold in April for $550 million.


    http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/bas...645611.735484

    The alleged Danny Ferry comments may be more troubling - he appeared to be turning the constantly dysfunctional Hawks around, but depending what was said his comments may be not just offensive but a factor in attracting free agents
    According to ESPN, Ferry was reading information aloud about free agents when someone (Ferry or another back office employee) didn't alter the comment. The player in the profile? Luol Deng.
    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. - Winston Churchill

    President of the "Nolan Smith Should Have His Jersey in The Rafters" Club

  8. #8

    A Duke flavor ...and an interesting topic

    Much to consider about this event:

    * The dysfunctional, multi-headed Hawks ownership has been at odds with one another for years...including internal lawsuits filed amongst the ownership. There was ample motive to "out" a fellow partner.

    * In light of the Sterling debacle, there is much sensitivity to potential racial prejudice in the NBA

    * The Duke factor: The scouting report that Danny Ferry read aloud (without editing some insensitive remarks) in an internal meeting was apparently about our very own L Deng. Throw in Adam Silver (judge and jury) and you have 3 Dukies in prominent roles in this saga.

    I am sure the PC police will push to find who is racist and needs punishment. But I am also interested to see if the business issue focusing on target marketing as highlighted in the Jabbar article will be debated. Can legitimate discussions on what music to play in an arena to attract fans stand up to the PC scrutiny?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Atlanta Duke View Post
    This perspective from Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, who has been a regular contributor to Time recently

    Bruce Levenson Isnít a Racist, Heís a Businessman
    http://time.com/3296175/bruce-levens...-abdul-jabbar/
    Thanks for posting that. I was thinking a lot of the same thoughts that Kareem verbalizes here when I was reading it.
    I don't see any ill will in the email, except against the whites Levenson assumes are fearful of blacks for what he feels are unwarranted reasons.

  10. #10
    There definitely has to be more to the story. I guess hard to really talk about it with the PPB rule here, but to put it lightly, his comments don't seem anywhere near fire/resign-able status, even if you think some of them are wrong.

  11. #11
    Man, I couldn't be a bigger fan of Kareem's. I echo the other comments about Levenson having an ulterior motive here. Evidently, he has attempted to sell before.

    In terms of the actual email, man, this PC environment is getting downright scary, as is the reaction of the media outlets. This was CNN's front page story last night, with huge letters calling it a "racist email". Now, they have moved it to a minor story, and refer to it as an " 'offensive' email", with offensive in quotes.

    I can't say I'm a fan of Silver's comments. No business is blind to the demographics of their customer base, and that includes things such as age, race, income, sex, etc. The trend lately has been the opposite, to appeal to a more diverse customer base in all aspects of business, from above the line marketing strategy, to product design, to customer service. One need only look at a McDonald's ad to see this.

    Imagine the email was reversed, and it was talking about the audience being 90% white, having all white cheerleaders, playing country music, etc. Would anyone have a problem with it? The golf and winter sports industries have talked openly like this for years.

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Location
    Nashville
    Quote Originally Posted by Reisen View Post
    Man, I couldn't be a bigger fan of Kareem's. I echo the other comments about Levenson having an ulterior motive here. Evidently, he has attempted to sell before.

    In terms of the actual email, man, this PC environment is getting downright scary, as is the reaction of the media outlets. This was CNN's front page story last night, with huge letters calling it a "racist email". Now, they have moved it to a minor story, and refer to it as an " 'offensive' email", with offensive in quotes.

    I can't say I'm a fan of Silver's comments. No business is blind to the demographics of their customer base, and that includes things such as age, race, income, sex, etc. The trend lately has been the opposite, to appeal to a more diverse customer base in all aspects of business, from above the line marketing strategy, to product design, to customer service. One need only look at a McDonald's ad to see this.

    Imagine the email was reversed, and it was talking about the audience being 90% white, having all white cheerleaders, playing country music, etc. Would anyone have a problem with it? The golf and winter sports industries have talked openly like this for years.
    If I'm moving into PPB territory, forgive me. I will try to put this as neutrally as possible. However, the response to Levenson's email seems utterly absurd considering that only a short while ago my beloved Atlanta Braves announced that they were moving the team to Cobb County to be closer to their "core" fan base. It is simply impossible NOT to conclude that serious demographic research (which must include race, as well as class and geography) went into that decision. The language of the organization's justification for the move always troubled me, as the Braves seemed to be blatantly giving up any attempt to appeal to Atlanta as a whole and instead decided to focus on a smaller demographic. Call me crazy, but I'm far, far, far more comfortable with Levenson and other ownership groups having conversations about how to diversify the fan base, even if those conversations are crude and based on stereotypes. I certainly hope that society can rise above simple stereotypes, but it is also important that we confront our biases and figure out ways to overcome them. To me, the Braves' move to Cobb County warrants far more scrutiny than Levenson's email.

    To bring this back out of PPB territory, I agree with others who think that there is a good chance that rival owners had no problem giving Levenson a reason to cash out. The whole thing is really strange and, ultimately, no one is really harmed. My hope is that the situation forces the Atlanta area into some serious soul-searching about the social dynamics that still obviously play a large role in the workings of the city.

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Quote Originally Posted by Reisen View Post
    Man, I couldn't be a bigger fan of Kareem's. I echo the other comments about Levenson having an ulterior motive here. Evidently, he has attempted to sell before.

    In terms of the actual email, man, this PC environment is getting downright scary, as is the reaction of the media outlets. This was CNN's front page story last night, with huge letters calling it a "racist email". Now, they have moved it to a minor story, and refer to it as an " 'offensive' email", with offensive in quotes.

    I can't say I'm a fan of Silver's comments. No business is blind to the demographics of their customer base, and that includes things such as age, race, income, sex, etc. The trend lately has been the opposite, to appeal to a more diverse customer base in all aspects of business, from above the line marketing strategy, to product design, to customer service. One need only look at a McDonald's ad to see this.

    Imagine the email was reversed, and it was talking about the audience being 90% white, having all white cheerleaders, playing country music, etc. Would anyone have a problem with it? The golf and winter sports industries have talked openly like this for years.
    But there are ways to approach things that accomplish the business goals without being unnecessarily inflammatory. If Levenson had sent a memo stating his belief that the Hawks would benefit from a widely diverse fan base and that team marketing could assist in that endeavor, there would be no story. "Our business model would be better served by focusing on a diverse fan base" is a different message from "We need less black-ness and more white-ness." I think Levenson was thinking the former and typed out the latter. As an owner, he's charged with protecting the brand, and he besmirched the brand with his followups about black income levels.

    It's not about being less-than-candid or substituting code phrases. It's about behaving politely and focusing on the business issue at hand (in this case, diversity of fan base) without resorting to unnecessarily inflammatory stereotypes. People just have to get past this idea that if they think their racial stereotypes are accurate, they should blurt them out. I'm talking basic civility of public discourse. But it's not just a matter of being civil; it's also smart business.

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Mount Kisco, NY
    Quote Originally Posted by COYS View Post
    If I'm moving into PPB territory, forgive me. I will try to put this as neutrally as possible. However, the response to Levenson's email seems utterly absurd considering that only a short while ago my beloved Atlanta Braves announced that they were moving the team to Cobb County to be closer to their "core" fan base. It is simply impossible NOT to conclude that serious demographic research (which must include race, as well as class and geography) went into that decision. The language of the organization's justification for the move always troubled me, as the Braves seemed to be blatantly giving up any attempt to appeal to Atlanta as a whole and instead decided to focus on a smaller demographic. Call me crazy, but I'm far, far, far more comfortable with Levenson and other ownership groups having conversations about how to diversify the fan base, even if those conversations are crude and based on stereotypes. I certainly hope that society can rise above simple stereotypes, but it is also important that we confront our biases and figure out ways to overcome them. To me, the Braves' move to Cobb County warrants far more scrutiny than Levenson's email.

    To bring this back out of PPB territory, I agree with others who think that there is a good chance that rival owners had no problem giving Levenson a reason to cash out. The whole thing is really strange and, ultimately, no one is really harmed. My hope is that the situation forces the Atlanta area into some serious soul-searching about the social dynamics that still obviously play a large role in the workings of the city.
    Atlanta has always had a bad reputation as a sports town from a fan enthusiasm perspective. Do those of you who live there think its partially race based, that there is, perhaps, a lack of unity between the white and black fans, to cite the two largest buckets of fans? COYS, I feel like that's kind of what you were getting at with the "appeal to Atlanta as a whole". I am wondering if this is a race thing or a race thing particular to Atlanta and maybe the south because up here in NY, in reference to Levenson's observation that the black fans are more reserved, I have seen plenty of screaming and rabid black fans right next to the similarly insane white fans and wacko asian fans...and there's just as many more reserved black and white and asian fans, and white fans, and you get the picture. Is it just that Race will always loom large in the American South?

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Reisen View Post
    Man, I couldn't be a bigger fan of Kareem's. I echo the other comments about Levenson having an ulterior motive here. Evidently, he has attempted to sell before.

    In terms of the actual email, man, this PC environment is getting downright scary, as is the reaction of the media outlets. This was CNN's front page story last night, with huge letters calling it a "racist email". Now, they have moved it to a minor story, and refer to it as an " 'offensive' email", with offensive in quotes.

    I can't say I'm a fan of Silver's comments. No business is blind to the demographics of their customer base, and that includes things such as age, race, income, sex, etc. The trend lately has been the opposite, to appeal to a more diverse customer base in all aspects of business, from above the line marketing strategy, to product design, to customer service. One need only look at a McDonald's ad to see this.

    Imagine the email was reversed, and it was talking about the audience being 90% white, having all white cheerleaders, playing country music, etc. Would anyone have a problem with it? The golf and winter sports industries have talked openly like this for years.
    The problem with some of the comments in the email is that Levenson implies the racist beliefs held by potential white fans is partially to blame for this demographic group's lack of attendance at Hawks games. Levenson states that his theory is that the "...black crowd scared away the whites...", and that "...southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or a bar where they were in the miniority...". This is a major concern of his because he feels there aren't enough affluent blacks who purchase season tickets and expensive concessions. Levenson wants to reduce the proportion of blacks at games because he believes that many southern whites will not attend games at Philips Arena until the crowd demographics change. There is nothing wrong with marketing to a particular ethnic demographic but I do have a problem with marketing to a particular group by apppeasing sentiments that are blatantly racist. If you choose not to attend a basketball game because the crowd is 40 to 70 percent black in a city that is over 50 percent black, then you're racist and are probably living in the wrong city.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Reisen View Post
    Man, I couldn't be a bigger fan of Kareem's. I echo the other comments about Levenson having an ulterior motive here. Evidently, he has attempted to sell before.

    In terms of the actual email, man, this PC environment is getting downright scary, as is the reaction of the media outlets. This was CNN's front page story last night, with huge letters calling it a "racist email". Now, they have moved it to a minor story, and refer to it as an " 'offensive' email", with offensive in quotes.

    I can't say I'm a fan of Silver's comments. No business is blind to the demographics of their customer base, and that includes things such as age, race, income, sex, etc. The trend lately has been the opposite, to appeal to a more diverse customer base in all aspects of business, from above the line marketing strategy, to product design, to customer service. One need only look at a McDonald's ad to see this.

    Imagine the email was reversed, and it was talking about the audience being 90% white, having all white cheerleaders, playing country music, etc. Would anyone have a problem with it? The golf and winter sports industries have talked openly like this for years.
    The problem arises when Levenson outlines the business strategy, which seems to be predicated on fewer black people attending games and lower prominence in the arena in order to appeal to what he assumes is a racially motivated lack of attendance by white Atlanta males. Rather talking about increasing diversity or how to compete for season ticket holders against three other major sports franchises: Hawks, Braves, Thrashers, he accuses his teams own fans of sabotaging their success. He talks about the drop of black attendance as a success and insinuates that 40% black attendance is still too high because "it may feel like 70%" to "southern white males" and that its 4 times that of other teams. He goes on to say things like: "the kiss cam is too black" and that "a lot of blacks don't seem to go as crazy cheering (just another one of my theories)".

    I understand that businessmen like Levenson are after the almighty dollar. But rather than to approach the low season ticket holder as a challenge and specifically look for ways to increase the Atlanta Hawk brand among the wider Atlanta community, he uses black attendance as an excuse and seeks to marginalize them in the Arena in order to attract racist white patrons. Instead of better networking for corporate ticket holders or, god-forbid, putting a better team on the floor, he has " bitched about the kiss cam being too black." Really? Does anyone give a flying *&#^ about the kiss cam when purchasing tickets? Is black people kissing repugnant to whites? His email may not have any overt nastiness in it, but it contains a rancid fruit, and this is completely setting aside the issue of claiming southern white men wont attend Atlanta Hawks games because they are racist...an assumption that should never enter into any strategy session about trying to expand your customer base.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Quote Originally Posted by COYS View Post
    If I'm moving into PPB territory, forgive me. I will try to put this as neutrally as possible. However, the response to Levenson's email seems utterly absurd considering that only a short while ago my beloved Atlanta Braves announced that they were moving the team to Cobb County to be closer to their "core" fan base. It is simply impossible NOT to conclude that serious demographic research (which must include race, as well as class and geography) went into that decision. The language of the organization's justification for the move always troubled me, as the Braves seemed to be blatantly giving up any attempt to appeal to Atlanta as a whole and instead decided to focus on a smaller demographic. Call me crazy, but I'm far, far, far more comfortable with Levenson and other ownership groups having conversations about how to diversify the fan base, even if those conversations are crude and based on stereotypes. I certainly hope that society can rise above simple stereotypes, but it is also important that we confront our biases and figure out ways to overcome them. To me, the Braves' move to Cobb County warrants far more scrutiny than Levenson's email.

    To bring this back out of PPB territory, I agree with others who think that there is a good chance that rival owners had no problem giving Levenson a reason to cash out. The whole thing is really strange and, ultimately, no one is really harmed. My hope is that the situation forces the Atlanta area into some serious soul-searching about the social dynamics that still obviously play a large role in the workings of the city.
    As a lifelong Atlantan, I could not agree more. Levenson's thoughts, while coarsely constructed and poorly articulated, are not wrong. Atlanta is a racially divided city, and sports franchises do face a problem in marketing to the whole cross-section. A rather heavily self-segregated population reinforces this divide, and as you point out, is leading the Braves into the suburbs to cater to their "core demographic" (the one that hates venturing into the big, bad city, has rejected public transit for decades, and doesn't seem at all inclined to invite outsiders in to its coming new stadium). Local sports radio is talking today about how preposterous Levenson's comments are, but they're really not...they're just a rather tactless expression of a very real rift that runs to the core of Atlanta.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by subzero02 View Post
    The problem with some of the comments in the email is that Levenson implies the racist beliefs held by potential white fans is partially to blame for this demographic group's lack of attendance at Hawks games.
    Why is this a problem? It seems like a reasonable possibility to explore. Maybe it's true and maybe it's not, but I don't think we should be banning people, especially in non-public e-mails, from discussing the possibility. Recognition that prejudice exists and hypothesizing that it may have an effect on business isn't inflammatory itself, right?

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Dat View Post
    Atlanta has always had a bad reputation as a sports town from a fan enthusiasm perspective. Do those of you who live there think its partially race based, that there is, perhaps, a lack of unity between the white and black fans, to cite the two largest buckets of fans? COYS, I feel like that's kind of what you were getting at with the "appeal to Atlanta as a whole". I am wondering if this is a race thing or a race thing particular to Atlanta and maybe the south because up here in NY, in reference to Levenson's observation that the black fans are more reserved, I have seen plenty of screaming and rabid black fans right next to the similarly insane white fans and wacko asian fans...and there's just as many more reserved black and white and asian fans, and white fans, and you get the picture. Is it just that Race will always loom large in the American South?
    I have lived in Atlanta since the 80s but do not believe it is a good pro sports town because of so many residents moving in from other parts of the country, with loyalties to pro teams they watched growing up, and UGA football being the number one passion in Atlanta as well as the rest of Georgia. I will be interested to see how it plays out this season, but when the Steelers last played in Atlanta in 2006 I was among what I estimated to be one-third of the crowd rooting for the Steelers.

    I do not believe race is a major factor - Atlanta fans will show up when a pro team plays well and then quit showing up when it is not - the Hawks have not made it to a conference championship playoff game since I have lived here.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atlanta Duke View Post
    I have lived in Atlanta since the 80s but do not believe it is a good pro sports town because of so many residents moving in from other parts of the country, with loyalties to pro teams they watched growing up, and UGA football being the number one passion in Atlanta as well as the rest of Georgia. I will be interested to see how it plays out this season, but when the Steelers last played in Atlanta in 2006 I was among what I estimated to be one-third of the crowd rooting for the Steelers.

    I do not believe race is a major factor - Atlanta fans will show up when a pro team plays well and then quit showing up when it is not - the Hawks have not made it to a conference championship playoff game since I have lived here.
    The same can be said for Washington, NYC, Boston, and plenty of other cities.

    Here is a study of the most transient cities in the US: http://www.creditdonkey.com/where-wanderers.html. Atlanta is not in the top 10.
    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. - Winston Churchill

    President of the "Nolan Smith Should Have His Jersey in The Rafters" Club

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