Forget Bruce Levenson, All Eyes Are On Danny Ferry Now


If it wasn’t for Ray Rice, the sports world and angry mob would be at the NBA’s door only to turn around and run their anger to Atlanta.

Another racist owner? Here we go. Every owner is burning every document, deleting every email, and covering all tracks to ensure their fate would be the opposite of Bruce Levenson and Donald Sterling.

The timing of this was all curious. A two year old email shouldn’t cause an owner to sell his team unless there was something more to come. Turns out, there was much more to come out.

In the middle of the night on Monday, Zach Klein of WSB found what we were all searching for in the form of a letter. Minority owner Michael Gearon Jr. wrote said letter to Levenson calling for GM Danny Ferry’s job due to a racially insensitive conference call.

During that call Danny Ferry used terms like “he still has some African in him,” and “he has a nice store out front, but will sell you counterfeit stuff out back.” The subject of the call was Luol Deng and the Hawks’ pursuit of the free agent.

Luol Deng has long been seen as a humanitarian, a nice guy, and a overall hard worker. That makes these comments seem even more egregious, but even if it was about an average Joe in the NBA, it doesn’t change the stupidity of these comments.

But wait! In a statement released by Ferry on Tuesday, he says it wasn’t his fault, nor were those words his:

"“In regards to the insensitive remarks that were used during our due diligence process, I was repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources during background conversations and scouting about different players. I repeated those comments during a telephone conversation reviewing the draft and free agency process. Those words do not reflect my views, or words that I would use to describe an individual and I certainly regret it. I apologize to those I offended and to Luol, who I reached out to Monday morning.”"

What Ferry’s statement leaves out is the fault he has. It is very likely that those words were written by a third-party or an outside scout, but his negligence may be his downfall.

It is Ferry’s job to do some research on potential signings. Character certainly is included in that. If there are honest concerns that come with certain players then those should really be addressed as well. What Danny Ferry failed to do was be sensitive to Deng and to the people on the call.

He read over the report before the call was made, that much is clear, but why he didn’t filter through the words on the report is what has baffled most of us. As a man who is in a position of power in a league that is predominantly African-American, it should be his and every other executive in the league’s responsibility to treat people with respect and find a way to present his job and facts in a mature and respectful manner.

Clearly, he failed. In the letter written to Levenson, Gearon made it clear that he was made uncomfortable, and knew that this could be catastrophic if it ever got out. “We were appalled that anyone would make such a racist slur under any circumstance,” Gearon said in the letter, “much less the GM of an NBA franchise on a major conference call.”

Could he have said we have some character issues here, or preface the comments by saying that here is what’s written? Yes. The way Gearon writes the letter shows that he did no such thing.

So what will happen to Ferry now?

It has become clear that it is time for Ferry to go. Whether you think his actions were wrong or whether they warrant a dismissal or not, he has to go.

What player would sign in Atlanta now? They have already had trouble nabbing a marquee name, and this scandal could mean their chances of signing anyone of significance are gone. How could Ferry sit across from a player and say come play for me? Whether he agreed with the report or has racial issues or not is now irrelevant. Court of public opinion and the snowball effect has taken place. It’s over.

Whenever a new owner comes in, the message will be obvious. It will be time to “change the culture” and start fresh. That means Danny Ferry will be unemployed. The question of when he’s gone is all that remains now.

If it wasn’t for the Ray Rice and NFL scandal, all talk shows, columns, and national outlets would be honed in on this. As soon as eyes turn to this story, the Hawks are in even more trouble. S

oon the sponsors will come and state their case. One by one they will “suspend” their partnerships. After that, the clock will really start to tick.

What should the Hawks do?

In today’s society, we have to have justice. No scandal can be closed until someone plays the sacrificial lamb. Levenson is out, so that leaves the GM standing in the crosshairs.

Ferry just can’t survive this. Despite all his good work for the franchise the last few years, the Hawks simply can’t win this unless everyone involved is gone.

They have a chance to come out winners, though. The coming month will play a huge role in this. If Ferry is gone, naming Mike Budenholzer president of basketball operations could be the best option. The coach is already a fan and media favorite, and his experience with the NBA’s model franchise — the San Antonio Spurs — could come in handy. He could play a Doc Rivers and Stan Van Gundy role with the Hawks. One voice could echo loudly in the aftermath of scandal.

If they can hire a passionate owner who is willing to be the face of a franchise who is longing for relevance, that could be one great three-headed monster. CEO Steve Koonin, Mike Budenholzer and a new owner could be standing on a stage preaching change and acceptance, and they could be commended. It was a celebration when Steve Ballmer was made the owner of the Clippers, and the Hawks could duplicate that to some degree.

Soon a recording of the call could be released, and Adam Silver could be suspending Ferry along with a statement.

One thing is for certain, though. This thing is far from over. The worst is yet to come.

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