Report: Bruce Levenson’s Email & Sale Of Team Puts NBA Owners On Notice

09.08.14 5 years ago 2 Comments

In the wake of Hawks owner Bruce Levenson announcing on Sunday he was putting the team’s majority ownership up for sale after racially insensitive remarks in an email to GM Danny Ferry were made public — purportedly by Levenson — other owners must now figure out whether they’ve made similar damaging comments, which could come to light in a post-Donald Sterling NBA.

After Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life and forced into selling the Los Angeles Clippers, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spoke publicly about how it was a “slippery slope” new commissioner Adam Silver was on.

Owners are now in the crosshairs should they jeopardize their standing with their NBA communities, or the league as a whole by making inappropriate comments in private conversations — specifically about race — that are then made public. NBA owners, as the Star-Ledger‘s Dave D’Alessandro wrote at the time of the Sterling bombshells, aren’t absolved from behavior closer to Sterling than many would want you to believe.

Whether it’s Magic Chairman Richard DeVos spending millions of dollars on his anti gay marriage initiatives, Wizards owner Ted Leonosis bribing bloggers the forced gentrification of Chinatown while making the city pay for the team in our country’s Capital; Cavs owner Dan Gilbert making millions in the mortgage business, where many of those mortgages were passed along to Countrywide, which helped augment the derivatives market that almost toppled the American economy; or, Clay Bennett who made millions in fracking — which has been shown to destroy the native environment, speed up global warming and turn drinking water toxic — before moving on without paying landowners the royalties when the business failed, those who sit at the head of the league’s board of governors already have plenty of skeleton’s plainly visible to anyone with a computer and some cursory google knowledge.

That’s exactly what makes the Bruce Levenson drama so unappealing if you’re an NBA owner. Now owners are on notice for their behavior, and they can’t flit away public goodwill if old transgressions see the light of day.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski adds that Silver didn’t really have the tacit owner support for the Sterling ruling many believed at the time, and now the owners are running scared, hoping to scoop up and destroy any memo, email, video or evidence of them denigrating black people or behaving in an uncouth manner. You know, sort of like how professional athletes are held to a higher standard than the rest of the population:

“Adam had far less support on Sterling than anyone knows,” a league source who speaks frequently with Silver told Yahoo Sports.

All around the league, owners started to take inventory on loose memos, audio and video remnants of speaking engagements and staff meetings. From race to gay rights to fears of camera phones getting turned on them half-cocked in bars well past midnight, there were assuredly more than a few owners dispatching high-level cleaning crews to try and retrieve and expunge past indiscretions.

It seems Levenson’s email is exactly what they feared would be released. According to Yahoo, “several high-ranking NBA officials, including owners, flew to New York to meet with Silver and discuss how the NBA would proceed on the contents of Levenson’s 2012 email.”

It seems news of an NBA owner being in trouble again was already making the rounds in NBA back channels earlier this past weekend, and they were scared because, as one high-ranking NBA official told Yahoo Sports on Friday, the news was “Sterling-esque in nature.”

Fear spread rapidly, because without knowledge of Levenson’s identity, more than one owner wondered: “Do they have something on me?” Other high-ranking officials in organizations wondered, “Do you know if it’s my guy?” Until the NBA issued a statement – deftly buried within hours of the NFL season’s start on Sunday – the league was littered with guilty consciences bracing for the worst.

Sterling’s ouster was more of a coup de grace after a lifetime of retched behavior towards different races that leaked into his business dealings — including the federal government twice indicting him on housing discrimination charges, which he successfully fought off in court — but Silver’s lifetime ban and the implicit mandate going forward means owners have to be worried about their own behavior:

Once the NBA delivered its proclamation on Sunday, there were some unmistakable sighs of relief throughout the league. As one high-ranking team official texted within moments of the Levenson announcement, “It isn’t my guy!” Everyone’s heart stopped pounding so furiously, thrilled they had survived one more round of cuts in the roulette the post-Donald Sterling era has brought the NBA.

It’s not even clear Levenson actually came forward about the email, but that the email was a skeleton in his closet that came back to haunt him:

“Semantics,” Yahoo’s source called the NBA and Levenson’s insistence it was a case of self-reporting.

The real problem is what else is out there as owners run the same background checks on themselves the NBA might perform should they feel the need. Owners now have to make sure they’re not the next one targeted in an NBA that no longer has Donald Sterling to contend with, but instead is left with his legacy, an inheritance that directly affects the power structures in the NBA, with the league’s very owners running scared.

What do you think?

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