Miami Heat forward Luol Deng told Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver on Sept. 12 he believes the Hawks are not racists in light of the ongoing controversial statement made by Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry in June. Deng and Korver were former teammates with the Chicago Bulls.
In Luol Deng's eyes, the Atlanta Hawks are not racists.
This was what Deng told former Chicago Bulls teammate and current Hawks guard Kyle Korver, who then relayed the information to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vilvamore on Sept. 12. Here was what Korver had to say:
"Yeah we did speak. Luol is such a good guy. And he's been through so much in life that I don't really think this has really even phased him. He told me that he didn't think that (Atlanta general manager) Danny (Ferry) or anyone with the Hawks was racist. He said he was shocked when he heard what was said, but that sometimes things just slip out. It was pretty amazing, really. He just wants everything to move on. He wants to get back to basketball."
Vivlamore also asked Korver -- a member of the National Basketball Players Association's executive board who met with Hawks CEO Steve Koonin on Sept. 7 -- what his reaction was to the ongoing controversy in Atlanta:
"My thoughts are, when I got traded to the Hawks, I didn't want to come here because all I knew was what I heard, about bad culture and no fans and no excitement in the city. So I didn't want to come to Atlanta. At all. I was bummed to leave Chicago. But by the next summer, I chose to re-sign and come back to Atlanta.
"After a year of watching what Danny was doing and the people he was bringing in. Everything I saw, was so attractive to me and I really believed in it. I believe that he was going to turn things around. I saw that Atlanta was an incredible city, and that there was so much potential here to both raise my family and help build a great basketball culture. I had some opportunities to go to places that were already established and played really good basketball but I wanted to come back here and be a part of building this.
"I think in all this, I'm hopeful that when the dust settles, it keeps on going. I really do believe in what has gone on in the two years that I have been here. I think anyone who knows the game and has watched the transformation would agree with me. But it's just sad what's all going on. That all this has happened has really bummed me out."
Ferry took a leave of absence on Friday from the Hawks. He "made an inflammatory assessment of Deng during a conference call" with the Hawks' higher-ups three months ago, per ESPN:
"Ferry, who took an indefinite leave of absence Friday amid calls for him to step down, made an inflammatory assessment of Deng during a conference call with the Hawks' ownership group in June as the team was discussing the then-free agent. The GM, paraphrasing a scouting report, described Deng as someone who 'has a little African in him.'
"'He's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back,' Ferry said on the call, which was recorded.
"Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan, issued a statetment Wednesday, saying he was proud of his African roots and '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.'
"Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has resisted calls for Ferry to be dismissed. Meanwhile, Ferry issued an apology to Deng and said Friday that he plans to undergo sensitivity training and meet with local leaders.
"An internal investigation into Ferry's comments uncovered an unrelated email sent two years ago by the team's controlling owner, Bruce Levenson, who theorized that black fans were keeping suburban white fans from attending games.
"Levenson said he was embarrassed by what he called an ill-advised attempt to improve the team's attendance and that he intends to sell his share of the Hawks.
"The whole affair has been another embarrassment to the NBA, which only last month forced Donald Sterling into selling the Los Angeles Clippers after he was heard on recently recorded conversations with his girlfriend asking that she not bring African-Americans to his games. Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers for a record $2 billion.
"Commissioner Adam Silver, who quickly issued a lifetime ban against Sterling, said he supported Levenson's decision to sell the Hawks but doesn't think Ferry should lose his job."
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