Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox apologized for making a joke that stereotyped black women as argumentative at a recent event for ticket holders, Deadspin reports. He also received an undisclosed discipline from the organization, according to ESPN.
Wilcox sat down for an open ended Q&A session with about 200 season ticket holders and team club members and was grilled on some of the team’s personnel decisions. Multiple fans expressed frustration with the organization’s leadership and roster construction
“I know you guys may be angry with me, but I’m used to it because I have a black wife and three mixed kids, so I’m used to people being angry and argumentative,” Wilcox reportedly said.
He apologized in a statement to Deadspin on Friday: “At an early December chalk talk, I made a self-deprecating comment at my own expense regarding my family, which is multi-racial. This joke offended Mr. Crawford and his wife and for that, I apologize.”
Deadspin’s account of the comments came from two people who were present, one being season ticket holder Clarenton Crawford, who proceeded to write an angry email to team CEO Steve Koonin. Crawford reiterated many of his frustrations about the team’s on-court product, including lobbying for Mark Jackson as head coach, and then ended his note expressing his and his wife’s grievances over Wilcox’s comments, adding that Wilcox immediately asked another white team employee if his joke was okay to make.
Crawford, who is black, was upset also due to the Hawks’ recent history — two years ago, former GM Danny Ferry was found to have made private comments about Luol Deng connecting his African heritage to his character in a negative manner, followed by a separate revelation that former owner Bruce Levenson sent an email that suggested the team’s white fans were more important than their black fans. In the aftermath of those controversies, Ferry resigned, and Levenson sold the team.
Wilcox and the Crawfords later had a sit-down meeting with senior vice president Nzinga Shaw, who was brought in as the league’s first diversity officer after Atlanta’s previous scandals.
Shaw issued the following statement to The Undefeated.
“After hearing multiple sides of the story and getting multiple eyewitness accounts of what took place, I am not convinced that what we heard and read in Deadspin is a direct quote that was used. Wes, however, certainly did make his off-color statement, which included elements of describing his wife's race. People that were in the room could make the assumption that he was using her race for the reason of the comments that followed. We certainly do not approve of this behavior and we are going to handle this manner internally.”