Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence on Sept. 12, after his racially charged comments earlier this summer about Luol Deng recently became public. However, Deng does not believe the Ferry or the Hawks’ organization is racist according to Kyle Korver, who is currently a member of the Hawks and a former teammate of Deng while with the Chicago Bulls.
Korver told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he reached out to Deng about Ferry’s controversial comments. Korver is also on the executive board of the NBA Players Association.
“ [Deng] told me that he didn’t think that Danny or anyone with the Hawks was racist,” said Korver.
“He said he was shocked when he heard what was said, but that sometimes things just slip out. It was pretty amazing, really. He just wants everything to move on. He wants to get back to basketball.”
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has resisted calls for Ferry to be dismissed, but said the 47-year-old GM asked for the leave of absense. Ferry has been with the Hawks since 2012.
“My hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing,” Koonin said in a statement.
Ferry has said he has no intention of stepping down. However, he plans to undergo sensitivity training and meet with local leaders. Ferry also issued an apology to Deng.
Ferry made an inflammatory assessment of Deng during a conference call with the Hawks’ ownership group in June as the team was discussing the then-free agent. The GM, paraphrasing a scouting report, described Deng as someone who “has a little African in him.”
Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan, signed with the Miami Heat but didn’t know if Ferry’s comments until this week. Deng said he was proud of his African roots, while adding he was “saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.”
An internal investigation into Ferry’s comments uncovered an unrelated email sent two years ago by the team’s controlling owner, Bruce Levenson, who theorized that black fans were keeping suburban white fans from attending games.
Levenson said he was embarrassed by what he called an ill-advised attempt to improve the team’s attendance and that he intends to sale his share of the Hawks. Commissioner Adam Silver said he supported Levenson’s decision to sell the Hawks but doesn’t think Ferry should lose his job.
“No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng,” Ferry said in his statement. “While these were not my words, I deeply regret repeating them. Almost all the background information I provided during the lengthy presentation regarding Luol was positive and my personal and professional recommendation during the call was very much in favor of adding Luol to our team, but I never should have uttered those offensive remarks and for that I apologize.”
In addition to Ferry’s apology, the Hawks organization has apologized to the city of Atlanta and their fans. Koonin penned the letter that can be found on the Hawks.com website.
Attorney Doug Davis, the son of legendary record producer Clive Davis, is interested in purchasing the Hawks though there are expected to other candidates. He represents clients such as Lil Jon and Swizz Beatz. He also represents basketball player Metta World Peace. Davis’ group includes music and entertainment executives, artists and celebrities.