ATLANTA (AP) — Less than one month after the Clippers’ sale ended Donald Sterling’s ugly downfall, another NBA team is on the market following a racially charged disclosure from its owner.
Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson said Sunday he is selling his controlling interest in the team, thanks in part to an inflammatory email he wrote two years ago.
Levenson said he wrote the email in an attempt “to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide.” Instead, he offered his divisive comments, including his theory that Hawks black fans kept white fans away.
Levenson said he regrets the email sent to the team’s co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry in 2012 as “inappropriate and offensive.” In a statement released by the team, Levenson said he sent the email due to his concerns about low attendance and a need to attract suburban whites.
He says he later realized the email made it seem white fans were more important. He voluntarily reported the email to the NBA.
“I have said repeatedly that the NBA should have zero tolerance for racism, and I strongly believe that to be true,” Levenson said in the statement. “That is why I voluntarily reported my inappropriate email to the NBA.
“After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Sunday the league will work with the Hawks’ ownership group and CEO Steve Koonin, who now will oversee all team operations.
Silver said the league’s independent investigation “regarding the circumstances of Mr. Levenson’s comments” in the email was ongoing when he was told Saturday night of Levenson’s plan to sell his share of the team.
Silver said he supported Levenson’s decision.
“As Mr. Levenson acknowledged, the views he expressed are entirely unacceptable and are in stark contrast to the core principles of the National Basketball Association,” Silver said. “He shared with me how truly remorseful he is for using those hurtful words and how apologetic he is to the entire NBA family — fans, players, team employees, business partners and fellow team owners — for having diverted attention away from our game.
“I commend Mr. Levenson for self-reporting to the league office, for being fully cooperative with the league and its independent investigator, and for putting the best interests of the Hawks, the Atlanta community, and the NBA first.”
Sterling was forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers after a recording surfaced in April of the owner scolding his girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games. Steve Ballmer officially became the team’s new owner on Aug. 12.