This past week, the outgoing ownership of the Atlanta Hawks voted to approve a settlement buy out of former GM Danny Ferry, ending his limbo status before the new ownership came in. Ferry had been on leave since August, when a recording of a call one year ago in June with ownership was made public, a call where Ferry said of then soon-to-be free agent Luol Deng he “has a little African in him,” and “He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”
Ferry said he was reading from a scouting report and did not filter that part (and since then a scouting report with those phrases was made public).
Now the law firm that independently investigated the incident for the Hawks says it “did not find evidence” that Ferry “was motivated by racial, ethnic or country of origin bias or animus.”
Through a source, NBC’s ProBasketballTalk obtained a copy of the letter from Bernard Taylor, a partner in the law firm of Alston & Bird (the results of that letter were already made public by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media). That firm did witness interviews and looked through more than 24,000 work emails.
Taylor wrote this in the letter:
“We reported the results of our work to the Hawks. In summary, the facts indicated that you repeated comments that were not your own about Mr. Deng from a scouting report during the call, and there was no evidence to indicate that during the call you acted in a manner motivated by negative bias toward Mr. Deng.”
PBT also obtained a letter from one of the Hawks current co-owners, Todd Foreman, to Ferry, which shifted the onus more own ownership. That letter states that “at the heart of this dispute was the unfortunate disagreement amongst owners.” The Hawks current and outgoing ownership has three separate groups and infighting amongst them was common, as different groups tried to grab more power. All three parties are selling their shares to the incoming ownership group headed by Tony Ressler, which includes former NBA All-Star Grant Hill.
These letters were part of the settlement deal with Ferry.