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The biggest affront: How does Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry still have a job?

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA has now facilitated the exit of its second owner in as many months due to derogatory comments toward the predominantly black race of players in the league.

First it was slumlord Donald Sterling, a 30-year owner with nearly as many years of reputation as a unadulterated bigot. No one was surprised that Sterling is a racist. They were merely surprised by the method in which he was "caught" in such a public fashion, thanks to TMZ Sports. New commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA acted swiftly, stripping Sterling of his ownership rights and forcing him to take a billion dollar severance for his capitulation. Poor guy.

Now, in the same offseason, the NBA is forcing another owner, Bruce Levenson of the Hawks, to take at least several hundred million dollars to walk away from losing operating income every year on a struggling franchise. Again, poor guy.

You know all this. Boo hoo. Rich people getting richer.

But despite the obvious "easy out" by these owners, it's important that the NBA is protecting its players by stripping the NBA of any known racism. That's the message, right? Zero tolerance!


Somewhat overlooked in the process these last 48 hours is that it was racist comments by GM Danny Ferry that started the whole internal investigation of the team in the first place.

Ferry reportedly was reading from a scouting report on Luol Deng and took it upon himself to either ad lib or neglect to edit a comment that Deng had "some African in him. But not in a bad way."

The context is even worse than the excerpt:

"He's still a young guy overall," Ferry said, league sources with direct knowledge of the probe told Yahoo. "He's a good guy overall. But he's not perfect. He's got some African in him. And I don't say that in a bad way."

Forget for the moment what that comment even means. What's material is that some people were offended. Apparently, those people were sufficiently concerned enough to start a massive investigation into racism within the front office of the Hawks.

That Ferry even made the comment that started the investigation could be brushed off as benign in and of itself. Without knowing the context, one could make the case that he was simply unprepared for the free agent meeting in which they were talking about an extremely well known, 10-year NBA player who would command about 20% of their salary cap, and that he merely read the scouting report for the very first time verbatim because he was holding it. Maybe it was even hot off the ol' fax machine and Ferry presented it as "breaking news".

But even if you believe that nonsense, you must then consider that the inflammatory email sent by owner Levenson in 2012 WAS SENT TO FERRY. You don't send an email that detailed, that open, that conversational if you don't think the person receiving the email would be okay with the message. You don't send that if you think the person would shut down at the rhetoric and lose the message.

And finally, we have a revelation on Monday night that minority owner Michael Gearon Jr., in reaction to the Ferry comments and the ensuing investigation, implored Levenson to fire Ferry. IN JUNE.

"We are calling on you, as majority owner and NBA governor, to take swift and severe action against general manager Danny Ferry. Our advisors tell us there is no other choice to ask for Ferry's resignation and if he refuses, to terminate him for cause under his employment contract."

IN JUNE, this was.

So not only did Levenson not fire Ferry in June, he still didn't fire him all the way up until his time as an owner was over.

And for as self-righteous and "I'm gonna fix this" Steve Koonin has been during this fiasco, he merely "punished" Ferry in a private way AFTER ALL THIS CAME TO LIGHT THIS WEEKEND.

Koonin has been around for months. He was there when Ferry made the comments. He was there during the investigation. And all he did was "punish" Ferry without firing him.


Why does the NBA owner have to go but no heads roll under him? That's the exact opposite of the business world. No CEO walks away without trying to fix the problem first, even if they were the problem.

But this is the NBA. This is the league where owners "take one for the team" by walking away with hundreds of millions of dollars.

And apparently, this is the league where bigots who could actually be negatively impacted by any action against them, who might not profit from the transaction, are left in their positions of power to make sign/release/trade decisions about a race of players "were are not perfect" because they have some "African" in them.


And fire any other racist in that organization who was in a position of influence over the roster.

And then start investigations on every other NBA team, including the Clippers, to make sure the NBA house is actually clean.

It's not good enough to pay the bigoted owners to walk away. Get tough, NBA. Or admit that you're just not interested in cleaning up this mess.

And while you're at it, make sure the next guy you approve as owner of a team isn't a bigot either.

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