Atlanta Hawks owner selling team due to "racist" email
Levenson is in the tan blazer. On the white side... I mean right side of the pic.
So the big story in the NBA over the weekend was news that Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson was selling the team after he provided the NBA with an email from two years ago that he described as "racist." The letter/email is pretty long, but here is a part where you can see stereotypes and prejudice in his words:
4. Regarding game ops, i need to start with some background. for the first couple of years we owned the team, i didn't much focus on game ops. then one day a light bulb went off. when digging into why our season ticket base is so small, i was told it is because we can't get 35-55 white males and corporations to buy season tixs and they are the primary demo for season tickets around the league. when i pushed further, folks generally shrugged their shoulders. then i start looking around our arena during games and notice the following:
-- it's 70 pct black
-- the cheerleaders are black
-- the music is hip hop
-- at the bars it's 90 pct black
-- there are few fathers and sons at the games
-- we are doing after game concerts to attract more fans and the concerts are either hip hop or gospel.
Then i start looking around at other arenas. It is completely different. Even DC with its affluent black community never has more than 15 pct black audience.
Before we bought the hawks and for those couple years immediately after in an effort to make the arena look full (at the nba's urging) thousands and thousands of tickets were being giving away, predominantly in the black community, adding to the overwhelming black audience.
My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a signficant season ticket base. Please dont get me wrong. There was nothing threatening going on in the arean back then. i never felt uncomfortable, but i think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority. On fan sites i would read comments about how dangerous it is around philips yet in our 9 years, i don't know of a mugging or even a pick pocket incident. This was just racist garbage. When I hear some people saying the arena is in the wrong place I think it is code for there are too many blacks at the games.
I have been open with our executive team about these concerns. 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. i have also balked when every fan picked out of crowd to shoot shots in some time out contest is black. I have even bitched that the kiss cam is too black.
Ironically, Levenson was one of the NBA owners most adamant that Donald Sterling needed to go. Personally, I don't think what Levenson wrote makes him a racist. Sterling has a history of doing racist stuff. Levenson's mistake here is talking from a strictly business viewpoint and not taking into account how it would come off as offensive to others. If Michael Jordan wrote this email after buying the Charlotte franchise, no one would care (Obviously comparing apples to oranges here as Atlanta and Charlotte have different demographics). If Jordan said we need to appeal to more affluent white people to make more money, again no one would care.
But in 2014 America, this type of "candid" talk by a prominent white person is frowned upon by enough people to make this a thing. Levenson is a dummy for writing the email. If you are a white person and you are going to write about racial issues you better make damn sure it can't be construed as offensive. Personally I'd rather have all people be able to speak about racial issues freely. I think we'd advance better as a country, but that's not the society we're living in right now. I'm sure there are some more NBA owners that are fearful that some conversation from their past that tackled African-Americans will come to light.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Was Levenson's email racist? Should he be forced to sell his team (It's unclear right now if he decided to sell his team as a preemptive move before Silver layed down some discipline)?