Report: Hawks Minority Owner Who Reported Ferry Longed For GM’s Ouster

The organizational disfunction of the Atlanta Hawks is becoming more widespread by the day. In the wake of controlling owner Bruce Levenson choosing to sell the team due to a bigoted e-mail and Danny Ferry coming under fire for insensitive comments made to describe South Sudan native Luol Deng comes a report that another owner – Michael Gearon, Jr. – took Ferry’s gross misstep as the chance to exercise his long-held plan to get the well-respected general manager fired.

The news is courtesy of Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. In a must-read story containing exclusive detail of Atlanta’s all-encompassing disfunction and more, Wojnarowksi writes that Gearon is the high-ranking official that notified Levenson of Ferry’s sentiments, thus sparking the probe that led to the discovery of the e-mail written by Atlanta’s chief owner. More important might be Gearon’s own reaction to the message in question itself.

Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry had been cornered where no NBA executive wants to be: a late afternoon, Friday conference call with the limited ownership partners. For all the contract language that dictated that Ferry had only to report to owner Bruce Levenson, these information calls remained an obligation of his duties.

One of the owners on the line in June, Michael Gearon Jr., had once been a far greater power player within the franchise. No more. Levenson and Ferry had neutralized him, and Gearon’s days of input into basketball decisions had been long gone. He disdained Ferry, and told people often inside and outside the organization: He longed for Ferry’s ouster as GM…

On and on, Ferry started about how Deng “has got some African in him” and proceeded to make a comparison to Africans with phony facades selling counterfeit goods.

As soon as those words left Ferry’s mouth on the call, Gearon responded in a dramatic way in the background of the tape recording, according to a partial transcript of the call obtained by Yahoo Sports.

“Oh my God, that comment sounds like Sterling on TMZ,” Gearon said…

And yet, for as quickly as Gearon fired off an indignant email to Levenson detailing the Deng comments on the call and demanding Ferry’s dismissal, Gearon’s immediate reaction to Levenson’s 2012 email on race and the Hawks’ attendance problems inspired a far more matter-of-fact tone.

In an email obtained by Yahoo Sports and dated Aug. 27, 2012, Gearon replied to Levenson’s racially charged correspondence this way: “Was tied up … for 2 hours this morning and then had to run to a meeting. Will call soon.”

Gearon’s outrage at Ferry’s description of Deng isn’t due to its offensive nature, but his ambitions to force Ferry out as the Hawks’ GM. If not for Gearon’s longstanding disdain of Ferry, it seems possible none of this information would have come to light – Wojnarowski mentions no other team owner or executive being bothered by the GM’s disdainful words.

Things only get worse when taking Ferry’s additional description of Deng into account. Of greater pertinence than the surfacing of more such nonsense, though, is the doubt this report casts on the insistence of Ferry and the team that he was reading from a prepared statement.

Audio of the teleconference, Wojnarowski writes, casts extreme doubt on that reality.

Ferry’s clinging to the story that the racially charged words belonged to someone else – that a riff connecting Africans to a con man stereotype weren’t his words at all. In context of the transcripts, it appears that those had been Ferry’s own interjections on the call, somehow supporting the intel culled outside of the Hawks.

Ferry’s supporters within Atlanta’s hierarchy say that they’ve chosen to believe him, but it’s been a tougher sell in the real world.


We just want this story to be over. As long as Ferry remains employed Atlanta, though, it will certainly and rightfully linger.

What do you think?

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