A comment from Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry about Miami Heat small forward Luol Deng prompted the investigation that turned up a racially insensitive email sent by Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson in 2012, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
Ferry said Deng has "some African in him" in a conference call with team owners, according to Wojnarowski.
The reference led at least one owner to pursue an investigation. The NBA announced on Sunday that Levenson would sell his controlling interest in the team.
ESPN's Marc Stein first reported that Deng was the player referenced in the background report that set off the investigation.
The conference call was arranged to discuss potential free agent moves. During the call, Ferry was reportedly reading a background with information from sources around the league. "Instead of editing it, he said the comment," Hawks CEO Steve Koonin told ESPN.
Here is the comment, according to Yahoo Sports:
"He's still a young guy overall," Ferry said. “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."
Ferry reportedly apologized and informed coaches and owners that he made the comments on Sunday.
Deng, who was born in Sudan, signed with the Heat this summer after spending the first nine-plus seasons of his career with the Chicago Bulls and part of last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though Atlanta had interest in signing Deng, the two sides reportedly were far apart in contract negotiations.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Sunday that disciplinary action will be taken against Ferry but he will remain the team's GM.
- Chris Johnson