Commissioner Adam Silver: Hawks GM Danny Ferry shouldn’t be fired for comments

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“He has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out the back….. For example, he can come out and be an unnamed source for a story and two days later come out and say, ‘That absolutely was not me. I can’t believe someone said that.’ But talking to reporters, you know they can [believe it].”

That is what Hawks GM Danny Ferry said about Luol Deng on a conference call with some of the minority owners of the team back in June just before the start of free agency. He has since apologized.

Should Ferry be fired for those comments?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said no, speaking to Sam Amick of the USA Today in Barcelona.

“The discipline of a team employee is typically determined by the team, and in this case the Hawks hired a prestigious Atlanta law firm to investigate the circumstances of Danny Ferry’s clearly inappropriate and unacceptable remarks,” Silver said. “In my view, those comments, taken alone, do not merit his losing his job.

“It’s a question of context … These words, in this context, understanding the full story here, the existence of the scouting report, the fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks, what I’m saying is — and frankly my opinion — is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”

Ferry said that he read those comments off of a scouting report. For the record Ferry advocated getting Deng and the Hawks made a two-year, $20 million offer, but Deng chose Miami.

I still don’t see how Ferry survives this, and as Silver said it’s all about context.

A franchise where a scout would write such things in a report and where Ferry would repeat them in a conference call to owners (if we take Ferry at his word for how this happened) has some clear racial tensions within the organization itself. Which falls on management. Try writing a report with that kind of stuff in it at your place of work and passing it along to your boss, see how it goes. Think he’ll pass it along to the head guy?

It doesn’t matter that some of what is going on here is an ownership power play. Whoever comes in as the new majority owner of the team — Bruce Levenson is selling his stake in the team after the release of a questionable email he sent — is going to need to fix the team’s relationship with the community, with African-American season ticket holders, and make Atlanta a franchise that free agents want to come to. He needs to make it a franchise that might keep guys like Paul Millsap next summer.

Can Danny Ferry be part of that in Atlanta?

He knows his basketball but I just don’t see how he’s a part of that new future in the ATL.

That said, Adam Silver and the people in power currently with the Hawks see it differently.