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Atlanta Hawks Owner Selling Team After Telling NBA About Racist Email

Illustration for article titled Atlanta Hawks Owner Selling Team After Telling NBA About Racist Email

Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is on his way out of the NBA. He's decided that he will sell the team before the completion of an NBA investigation into a 2012 email implying white fans were more valuable than black fans. Read the racist email here.

Levenson reported the email himself, likely because of the nuclear reaction to Donald Sterling's plantation mentality. Levenson, one of the owners to speak out against Sterling, has issued an apology; it's actually pretty good, for what that's worth. An excerpt:

In trying to address those issues, I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e. hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e. that white fans might be afraid of our black fans). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans.


The NBA seems to have decided that racism, or at least publicly observable racism, is bad for business—though I guess we'll see if it runs out of billionaires before it runs out of publicly racist owners.

Here's the full release from Adam Silver:

Following Bruce Levenson notifying the league office this July of his August 2012 email, the NBA commenced an independent investigation regarding the circumstances of Mr. Levenson's comments.

Prior to the completion of the investigation, Mr. Levenson notified me last evening that he had decided to sell his controlling interest in the Atlanta Hawks. 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. 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.

We will be working with the Hawks ownership group on the appropriate process for the sale of the team and I have offered our full support to Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, who will now oversee all team operations.

The NBA and its teams have long had in place anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies in order to facilitate respectful and diverse workplaces. Earlier this summer, the league re-doubled its efforts by, among other things, making it mandatory for all league and team personnel to receive annual training on these issues.

Obviously, we'd like to read this email. If you're a Hawks supporter and happen to have this sitting around your inbox, let us know at, and we'll work something out.

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