Hawks Scandal Was Sparked By "Racist" Remark About Luol Deng

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The email that led Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson to announce his intention to sell his controlling stake in the team emerged from a months-long investigation by an outside firm, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And that probe was ordered after a separate "offensive and racist" remark was included in a scouting report for Luol Deng.

The account was confirmed by ESPN, which first reported that Deng was the player in question.

Update: Here's what Ferry said, according to Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski:

"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."

At the meeting in early June, GM Danny Ferry accidentally read the offending remark from Deng's report aloud. "Instead of [verbally] editing it," said Hawks co-owner CEO Steve Koonin, "he said the comment."

Following the meeting, Koonin said members of the Atlanta-based ownership group raised a red flag regarding the comment and said: 'This is wrong. This should not be said. It's not appropriate in any world but not a post-(Donald) Sterling world."

Some in the ownership group called for an outside investigation, so the team retained the law firm of Alston & Bird. The firm conducted 19 interviews and examined 24,000 documents, including the 2012 email written by Bruce Levenson that emerged yesterday. Levenson called that email, in which he discussed ways to draw more white and affluent fans, "inappropriate and offensive" and "inflammatory nonsense."

Levenson's email was addressed to Ferry, with co-owners Todd Foreman and Ed Peskowitz CC'ed.

It's not clear if the investigation is complete, or if more potentially offensive documents will turn up. But Steve Koonin told the AJC that "other disciplinary action will be taken, including against general manager Danny Ferry."

[Atlanta Journal-Contitution]