Hawks owners agree to meet with civil rights leaders in Atlanta

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Atlanta has a strong civil rights history — it was the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. and is still home to the MLK National Historic Site (which is a fantastic visit). It has been home to a strong African-American community with impressive wealth in some quarters since back to the reconstruction era.

Which is why the comments of Hawks GM Danny Ferry about free agent Luol Deng and the crass email from now outgoing Hawks owner Bruce Levenson about the makeup of the crowd at Hawks games is even more of a punch to the gut of many in Atlanta.

Now a group of civil rights leaders from the Atlanta area want to meet with the Hawks ownership, reports the Associated Press.

The Rev. Markel Hutchins said he and others wanted a chance to discuss what they think is a racist attitude permeating the entire organization.

”Evidently the culture of racism and bigotry that is pervasive and ever-present in the Atlanta Hawks leadership is embarrassing to the city of Atlanta and undermines the very best of Atlanta’s history of race relations and being a leader for the nation and the world,” Hutchins said during a news conference outside Philips Arena, where the team plays.

Team officials said they expected to meet in the next two days, though details were still being worked out Monday.

The details of what Danny Ferry said on a conference call with owners makes it feel as if Hutchins is right — there seems to be a culture of racism, or at least a big vein of it, in the Hawks organization. Whether or not what Ferry said was written by a scout and not changed, or if he said it out of his own volition, this is an organization where someone thought this was an acceptable thing to have said in a conference call. Combine that with the Levenson’s email and perspective, and it paints a bad picture.

Whoever the new Hawks owner ends up being, his job out of the gate is to change that culture. It’s hard to see Ferry even being around when the sale happens at this point, but the changes need to be more systemic with that.

Even with it could take a while to win back the Hawks fan base, not to mention convince big time free agents to come to town. It’s going to be a long process for Hawks.