Following bigoted comments from 2012, Atlanta Hawks owner agrees to sell team

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When the Donald Sterling racist debacle went public with the TMZ released audio recording, Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson released a statement advocating a zero tolerance policy on such comments.

The problem is Levenson himself made some questionable comments, something he admitted in a statement released Sunday.

“In trying to address (Hawks attendance) issues, I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. I trivialized our fans by making clichéd 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.

“If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be. I’m angry at myself, too. It was inflammatory nonsense. We all may have subtle biases and preconceptions when it comes to race, but my role as a leader is to challenge them, not to validate or accommodate those who might hold them.”

In the email Levenson talks about how African-American centric the Hawks crowd is, how they struggle to attract the white 35-55 demographic, and how they need to make steps to get those white fans in the building. He said he thought the black crowd was scaring off the whites who might buy season tickets and he discusses plans to make the crowd whiter.

In the wake of those comments — which Levenson self-reported to the NBA — he has agreed to sell the team, something confirmed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.

“Following Bruce Levenson notifying the league office this July of his August 2012 email, the NBA commenced an independent investigation regarding the circumstances of Mr. Levenson’s comments.

“Prior to the completion of the investigation, Mr. Levenson notified me last evening that he had decided to sell his controlling interest in the Atlanta Hawks. As Mr. Levenson acknowledged, the views he expressed are entirely unacceptable and are in stark contrast to the core principles of the National Basketball Association. He shared with me how truly remorseful he is for using those hurtful words and how apologetic he is to the entire NBA family – fans, players, team employees, business partners and fellow team owners – for having diverted attention away from our game.”

This came after a meetings in New York on the issue, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Levenson and Michael Gearon purchased the Hawks back in 2004 for $208 million. While the team will not sell for the Clippers ridiculous $2 billion, it likely will sell for well more than triple what they paid for it (predicting the sale market is hard but the smaller market Milwaukee Bucks sold for $550 million, this sale will comfortably best that number). That likely makes the move to sell a lot easier for Levenson.