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Are You Rushing To Judgment on Danny Ferry?

Hawks GM Danny Ferry’s job may be in question after racial remarks, but ESPN analyst Jay Bilas defends his former teammate.

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Rushing to Judgment on Danny Ferry?

Atlanta Hawks president of basketball operations and general manager Danny Ferry has recently come under fire for making racially inappropriate remarks during a team conference call in June regarding forward Luol Deng – who was headed toward unrestricted free agency.

Ferry, who was reading verbatim from various scouting reports on Deng prepared by third parties, failed to self-edit the commentary when addressing his audience, which included Hawks minority owner Michael Gearon, Jr.  In the meeting’s aftermath, Gearon sent a letter to Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson requesting him to take “severe action against” Ferry for the remarks.

Gearon’s letter helped spark an internal investigation which ultimately led to a 2012 email, sent by Levenson, being uncovered filled with racially insensitive comments regarding African-Americans who attend Hawks games.

Levenson has recently announced his intention to sell his stake of the franchise. On flip side, there are many who believe ushering Ferry out the door is best for the franchise in the long run.

Despite Ferry’s admitted mistake, current ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas says his view of the veteran league executive has never wavered. Bilas and Ferry were teammates at Duke University back in the 1980s and have maintained a friendship over the years. Bilas believes Ferry is a man of high integrity and that the image currently being circulated on social media and in the mainstream press at the present moment doesn’t reflect the man he has come to respect over the years.

“I have known Danny Ferry for 30 years,” Bilas told Basketball Insiders. “He is and always has been a great teammate and friend.  I have always known him to be a man of great character and integrity and, knowing him as I do, I don’t doubt his character or integrity for one second.”

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has since disciplined Ferry for those comments. The terms of the punishment for the inflammatory remarks haven’t been disclosed publicly.

Due to the emergence of social media in today’s society, public figures and their exploits are more visible than ever. The rapid advancement of social media also means that a lifetime spent building a distinguished reputation of high character and respect can ultimately be diminished to rubble within mere minutes.

These are the days and times we reside. There’s no need to blindly reminisce about the days of yesteryear where news was more conservative and traveled at a much slower pace. Those times, unfortunately for some, are never coming back. These are the days of rapid reaction, emotionally charged responses and a demand for swift and heavy handed punishment. While there’s nothing wrong with those three attributes on the surface, it is also our responsibility to conduct and push healthy dialogue to the forefront.

Ferry has spent nearly 25 years in the league as a player or in a front office capacity.  A couple of players reached by Basketball Insiders expressed their shock Ferry’s name was involved with anything associated with race in a negative capacity which echoes Bilas’ sentiments.

But with a majority ownership change looming and the trend of new leadership regimes inserting their own guys in front office positions, it appears the vultures are circling overhead in Atlanta.

But this is a time to spark strong dialogue on a variety of topics. Ferry has carved out a successful career in a league filled with minorities. Ferry has placed minorities in high ranking positions within the organization. Ferry’s track record, up until now, has been seemingly clean. While you may not ever envision yourself making the same type of mistake Ferry made back in June, it doesn’t change the fact it was, by his account, a mistake. And sometimes mistakes and lapses in judgment are just that, without anything more sinister brewing beneath the surface.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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