Luol Deng has released a statement in light of a reported reference made about his African heritage that is believed to have triggered the investigation that led to Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson's decision to sell his controlling interest in the team.
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry reportedly read the comment off a scouting report during a conference call with his ownership group. The scouting report reportedly included information from sources around the league. Here is the comment: "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."
This is Deng's full statement, from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
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 do 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.
Hawks minority owner Michael Gearon reportedly wrote a letter to Levenson requesting for Ferry's resignation or firing. The team has disciplined Ferry but he will not face additional punishment from the NBA, according to the Journal-Constitution.
On Tuesday, former NBA player Magic Johnson expressed his feelings on the situation on Twitter:
Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry should step down after making racist statements about NBA player Luol Deng. — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 9, 2014
The City of Atlanta and the Hawks fans deserve and should demand better from the Hawks leadership. — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 9, 2014
In a statement on Tuesday, Ferry apologized and said he reached out to Deng.
"In regards to the insensitive remarks that were used during our due diligence process, I was repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources during background conversations and scouting about different players," Ferry said. "I repeated those comments during a telephone conversation reviewing the draft and free agency process. Those words do not reflect my views, or words that I would use to describe an individual and I certainly regret it. I apologized to those I offended and to Luol, who I reached out to Monday morning."
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.
In April, Deng was given the J. Walter Kennedy Award for community service.
- Chris Johnson