Racist Email Causes Hawks Owner to Sell

Atlanta-Hawks-WallpaperAn email from Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson surfaced after a related investigation, causing him to sell his controlling stake in the team. The email is an assessment of operations written to General Manager Danny Ferry, and it includes pointed comments about the numbers of black people at games:

"Before we bought the hawks and for those couple years immediately after in an effort to make the arena look full (at the nba's urging) thousands and thousands of tickets were being giving away, predominantly in the black community, adding to the overwhelming black audience.

"My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a signficant season ticket base. Please dont get me wrong. There was nothing threatening going on in the arean 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. On fan sites i would read comments about how dangerous it is around philips yet in our 9 years, i don't know of a mugging or even a pick pocket incident. This was just racist garbage. When I hear some people saying the arena is in the wrong place I think it is code for there are too many blacks at the games.

"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 tixs demo. i have also balked when every fan picked out of crowd to shoot shots in some time out contest is black. . . ."

Levenson is particularly criticized because he was so adamant that Donald Sterling should sell his stake in the team after he made racial comments, which were audio taped by his girlfriend. At the time, Levenson said, "I think I speak for all of my partners when I say we were all deeply offended. We all quickly spoke out against the words we heard on that tape."

Levenson apologized in a statement posted on the Hawks' website: 

"I trivialized our fans by making clich├ęd 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."

Additional statements were posted from CEO Steve Koonin and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Read Silver's full statement.

Download Bruce Levenson's email.

Discussion Starters:

  • Why would Levenson make such comments in an email? What assumptions did he make? 
  • Should Levenson have sold his stake when Donald Sterling sold his, back in May?