Last night, an email surfaced containing Hawks minority owner Michael Gearon's concerns regarding GM Danny Ferry's remarks, specifically about Luol Deng, during a conference call. Though he didn't have to, Deng chose to address the comments made about him.
Ferry reportedly said Deng "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." Deng, currently with the Miami Heat, focused on Ferry's first comment about the "African" in him.
The full statement, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
"HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM"
These words were recently used to describe me. It would ordinarily make any African parent proud to hear their child recognized for their heritage.
I'm proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just "a little". For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.
Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.
However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren't comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organization or league.
Ultimately, I'm thankful to be with an organization that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.
Photo: Getty Images