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Atlanta Hawks GM Takes Indefinite Leave Of Absence After Race Remarks

David Goldman
Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has taken indefinite leave from the team for making racially charged comments about Luol Deng when the team pursued the free agent this year.

Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has taken an indefinite leave of absence following revelations that he made racially charged comments about forward Luon Deng.

Team CEO Steve Koonin, in a statement Friday, said he hoped Ferry's "time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing."

ESPN noted that Koonin has resisted calls to fire Ferry following his comments about Deng. In a June 6 conference calls with Hawks owners about whether to pursue the veteran forward who is a free agent, Ferry 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." Audio of the call was obtained by ESPN and other media.

In response, the South Sudan-born Deng said: "I'm proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just 'a little.'"

The controversy is the latest surrounding the team and race, and it comes just days after controlling owner Bruce Levenson said he would sell his stake in the team because of a racially charged email he sent two years ago.

And it's another embarrassment for the NBA involving race and a team's owner. The league forced Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers after he made racist remarks. The Clippers were sold last month to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

In his statement today, Koonin said the Hawks would hire a chief diversity officer as part of its efforts to be a "better and stronger" organization.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.