Another basketball team will go up for sale thanks to racist statements. Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson will sell his stake in the team over a 2012 email that included disparaging statements about the team’s African-American fans.
Levenson was an outspoken critic of former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling when tapes released this summer revealed a host of racist opinions and statements. Levenson notified NBA officials of the August 2012 email in July, while the league was still dealing with Silver and the Clippers.
Sterling was eventually forced to sell the Clippers and was banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5 million. He also filed a lawsuit against the NBA. The NBA counter-sued Sterling in August.
“I have said repeatedly that the NBA should have zero tolerance for racism, and I strongly believe that to be true. That is why I voluntarily reported my inappropriate e-mail to the NBA,” Levenson said in a statement. “After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise.”
In the email, Levenson said that the Hawks’ predominantly black fan base “scared away the whites” and that the executive team should be doing more to court white male fans between ages 35 and 55. “I have told them I want some white cheerleaders and while [I] don't care what the color of the artist is, [I] want the music to be music familiar to a 40 year old white guy if that's our season tixs demo,” the email said.
“I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests (i.e. hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.) and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another (i.e. that white fans might be afraid of our black fans),” Levenson said. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin will take over for Levenson effective immediately.
Said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, “I commend Mr. Levenson for self-reporting to the league office, for being fully cooperative with the league and its independent investigator, and for putting the best interests of the Hawks, the Atlanta community, and the NBA first.”
Negotiations for the sale of the Hawks will begin soon. Following the Sterling scandal, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers for $2 billion.