Hawks Co-Owner Wanted Danny Ferry Out

12:02pm: Koonin said retaining Ferry is “a decision I am willing to live with” while appearing with Mike Conti on Sports Radio 92.9 The Game, as Conti tweets (hat tip to Michael Lee of The Washington Post). “I have to be fair to the facts,” Coonin said (Twitter link). “As of today, based on the facts, this is what I’ve decided.”

11:06am: Gearon isn’t the only one among the ownership group who would like to see Ferry resign, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (video link).

8:59am: Hawks GM Danny Ferry has no immediate plans to step down in the wake of the discovery that Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. called for Ferry’s dismissal in a letter sent to controlling owner Bruce Levenson in June, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Zach Klein of WSB-TV in Atlanta obtained a copy of the letter, in which Gearon depicts an expanded version of the inflammatory comments that Ferry is to have made about Luol Deng. The following is an excerpt of that letter, as hosted by WSB-TV:

“As you know, last Friday there was a conference call attended by numerous persons including Hawks management and ownership. We believe that you and [co-owner] Ed Peskowitz were on the call, but we are not sure whether you were listening the whole time. During the call, which was recorded so that notes could be made for our partners unable to participate live, our GM Danny Ferry discussed player personnel issues at some length. With respect to one potential free agent, a highly-regarded African-American player and humanitarian, Ferry talked about the player’s good points, and then went on to describe his negatives, stating that ‘he 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.’ Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly, all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.”

Gearon went on to write that an attorney advised him that the fallout from Ferry’s remarks would be “devastating,” and Gearon also asserts that if Ferry’s comments became public, “it could be fatal to the franchise.”

“Bruce, we are all too familiar with the current environment in the NBA and in the country generally from the fallout of Donald Sterling’s offensive comments,” the letter continued. “You have been on national television condemning Sterling and preaching zero tolerance of racial prejudice. We believe these comments by Ferry were far worse than Sterling’s because they were not from a private personal conversation – they were in a business environment on a business matter in front of a dozen or more people. If Ferry would make such a slur in a semi-public forum, we can only imagine what he has said in smaller groups or to individuals.”

The co-owner points to the racial diversity of Hawks management as having “changed for the worse since Ferry took over.” Ferry expressed regret in a press release from the team this morning.

“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 in the statement. “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 apologize to those I offended and to Luol, who I reached out to Monday morning.”

The situation surrounding Ferry is having an “immense impact” around the league, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, as front offices discuss language and the way scouting frames ethnicity and race. The Hawks don’t plan further discipline for Ferry beyond the undisclosed punishment that he was already receiving, according to TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). The league still isn’t set to sanction Ferry in any way, a source tells Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).

Ferry’s comments this summer sparked an investigation that led to the discovery of a racially charged 2012 email that Levenson had sent, and that in turn prompted Levenson’s announcement this weekend that he would sell his controlling stake in the team. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin is in charge of the Hawks while the sale is being conducted.

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