Atlanta Hawks scandal reportedly grew from offensive Deng scouting report

Atlanta Hawks scandal reportedly grew from offensive Deng scouting report

Posted by mikemcgraw on Mon, 09/08/2014 - 09:18

The strange NBA story of the weekend had its roots in a poorly-worded scouting report on free-agent target Luol Deng, according to

Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson self-reported a racially-insensitive e-mail he wrote a few years ago, which was made public on Sunday. The subject of the e-mail was his thoughts on how to attract more affluent customers to Hawks games, which is essentially what the NBA is all about these days with its outrageous ticket and concession prices.

Deadspin ran the complete e-mail if you're interested:

According to, the process began when Hawks general manager Danny Ferry read a Deng scouting report out loud to members of the team's ownership group. According to reports, the document included an "offensive and racist" remark, although no one is reporting what was read specifically.

After hearing the comment and deeming it inappropriate, the Hawks hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation. Levenson's e-mail was uncovered in the investigation and he decided to alert commissioner Adam Silver of plans to sell the team.

Still to be determined is any punishment for Ferry. He reportedly read the "offensive and racist" scouting report, but there is no indication of who wrote it. The Hawks didn't spend all of their cap space this summer and will have more available next year to chase free agents. This mysterious scouting report doesn't figure to enhance the Hawks' chances of luring players to Atlanta.

Here's the story:

This is an odd way to sell a sports team, but after the Los Angeles Clippers sold for $2 billion in the aftermath of Donald Sterling's racist remarks, maybe the Hawks owners thought a little negative publicity would be a good way to launch a bidding war.

The Hawks won't sell for $2 billion, but the Milwaukee Bucks went for $550 million a few months ago and a coveted NBA market is still sitting empty in Seattle. So this isn't a bad time for NBA owners to cash out.

And maybe other team owners will learn from this second NBA example of how not to behave.

UPDATE -- has some insight into what Danny Ferry said about Luol Deng that prompted this Hawks investigation. The story uses sources to suggest Ferry said this, "He's a good guy overall. But he's not perfect. He's got some African in him. And I don't say that in a bad way."

Deng grew up in Africa, living in Sudan and Egypt when he was young, so it seems possible Ferry is referring to Deng's background. I've heard NBA people mention concerns about players who grew up in Africa, how it can be much different than what American kids experience in terms of exercise and nutrition.

We don't know exactly what was said and in what context, so it's tough to judge if Ferry's comment was "racist and insensitive" or simply misunderstood by the ownership group. Needless to say, Deng probably knew what he was doing when he signed with Miami instead of the Hawks.

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