First we have LA Clipper NBA owner Donald Sterling complaining to his girlfriend about her habit of hanging out with former black basketball players at Clipper games. (Chris Rock has joked that he wouldn’t want his girlfriend hanging out with black basketball players either :) ) In the wake of the media/public uproar over “racist” comments, the NBA forced Sterling to sell his team.
Then we have Atlanta Hawks NBA owner Bruce Levenson complaining to his team executives about the team’s failure to get adequate numbers of affluent white people supporting the team. To remedy this failure, he suggested including some white women as cheerleaders and playing something other than hip hop music at the games. When Levenson learned that his emailed complaint, which he self-described as offensive, was going to be made public, he fell on his sword and agreed to sell his team.
Next we have Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on a video coldcocking his then fiancée, now wife Janay in an elevator. Although local law enforcement and the NFL had already investigated the incident and issued penalties – i.e., anger-management counseling and a two-game suspension, respectively – the release of the video to the public created such a media/public uproar that the Ravens released Rice and the NFL banned him.
And finally, now we have Atlanta Hawk general manager Danny Ferry during a conference call to his ownership group reading the following scouting report on Africa-born free agent Luol Deng:
- “[Deng] “is still a young guy overall. He is a good guy overall. But he is not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell your counterfeit stuff out of the back.”
This comment greatly offended one of the co-owner/listeners – J. Michael Gearon, Jr. – and prompted him to personally consult legal counsel to determine the team’s legal and exposure. Following that consultation, Gearon issued a demand to the team’s controlling owner Bruce Levenson, which included the following verbiage:
With respect to one potential free agent, a highly-regarded African-American player and humanitarian, Ferry talked about the player’s good points, and then went on to describe his negatives, stating 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 of the back.” Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly, all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.
We are appalled that anyone would make such a racist slur under any circumstance, much less the GM of an NBA franchise on a major conference call. One of us can be heard on the tape reacting with astonishment. Our franchise has had a long history of racial diversity and inclusion that reflect the makeup of our great city. Ferry’s comments were so far out of bounds that we are concerned that he has put the entire franchise in jeopardy.
As a minority partner with no effective say in decision-making, we were somewhat at a loss what to do next. So we consulted this week with two attorneys, one a very well-known and highly respected African-American former judge in Atlanta, and the other a highly regarded employment discrimination lawyer. They confirmed our fears and then some. The former judge put it pretty succinctly, saying that any African-American who heard the comments would interpret them as meaning “all blacks are two-faced liars and cheats.” The employment attorney opined that we as a team face significant exposure, possibly in the courts, but certainly in the court of public opinion, and, as we all know, within the league. She described the possible fallout as “devastating.” We agree.
As you may recall from my previous posts about being politically correct, the Urban Dictionary defines the term as, “A way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining pussies.” I wonder if you look up the term “whining pussies” whether you will see a photo of J. Michael Gearon, Jr.
I also wonder if the 24-hour media will ever be able to rise above its current role as an alter ego for a lynch-mob public.
Incidentally, Gearon is incorrect in referring to Deng as an African-American player. Deng was born in Sudan, move to Egypt, and finally settled in England, where he was naturalized in 2006.