The audio of Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry making racially-insentive and offensive comments about then free agent Luol Deng has surfaced. It’s also been reported that Ferry is taking an indefinite leave of absence. Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer will assume basketball operations for the team.
As we previously reported, Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson is selling his share of the team after racially-insensitive e-mails he sent were made public. Ferry is also under fire for reading a scouting report about Deng in a business meeting. While Ferry reportedly didn’t write the scouting report, many people found the language offensive. The report referred to Deng, who is Sudanese, as someone who has “a little African in him.” Deng later signed with the Miami Heat.
— AJC (@ajc) September 12, 2014
— AJC (@ajc) September 12, 2014
Listen to the call below:
Ferry released the following statement today (September 12) about his leave of absence:
No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng.
Luol is a good man who I have known for many years and he has done a tremendous amount of good for his country and around the world. I apologize to Luol and I apologize to all that I have offended. As I have said, while these were not my words, I deeply regret repeating them. Almost all the background information I provided during the lengthy presentation regarding Luol was positive and my personal and professional recommendation during the call was very much in favor of adding Luol to our team but I never should have uttered those offensive remarks and for that I apologize.
My focus moving forward is to tirelessly work to rebuild trust with this community and with our fans. I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me. I will maximize my time during this leave to meet with community leaders and further educate myself and others on the extremely sensitive issues surrounding race, diversity, and inclusion. I will find a way to make a positive difference in this area, and further learn from the sensitivity training that I will go through.
Deng issued the following statement a few days ago in response to the controversy:
HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM
These words were recently used to describe me. It would ordinarily make any African parent proud to hear their child recognized for their heritage.
I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just “a little.” For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can do no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.
Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.
However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren’t comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organization or league.
Ultimately, I’m thankful to be with an organization that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.
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