Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has taken a leave of absence following reports he made racial comments in a conference call with team owners. The comments were made in reference to veteran forward Luol Deng.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin released a statement Friday afternoon saying Ferry requested the leave of absence and it had been accepted by the team.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family, and it is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing. As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process,” Koonin said.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer will assume Ferry’s duties.
Ferry contended that he was reading from a scouting report on Deng and the words were not his own.
In June, Ferry said during a conference call with Hawks co-owners about Deng that “he has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out the back. … For example, he can come out and be an unnamed source for a story and two days later come out and say, ‘That absolutely was not me. I can’t believe someone said that.’ But talking to reporters, you know they can (believe it).”
Ferry apologized for his actions. Deng signed with the Miami Heat.
“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,” Ferry said in a statement. “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.”
Minority owner J. Michael Gearon Jr. and the team’s other owners requested in a letter to Bruce Levenson to ask for Ferry’s dismissal. Levenson, another of the team’s owners, created a controversy of his own with an email that had racial overtimes about the Hawks’ struggles to attract fans to games.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday that the Hawks should not fire Ferry. Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, who is black, also backed Ferry.
“I have no idea what is happening in the Atlanta Hawks organization,” Ujiri said, “but I do know how the scouting world works. We all have different ways of sharing information about players and different vocabularies to do so. It crossed a line here.
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