E-mails, audio recordings, and video surveillance. This trifecta of evidentiary support was put front and center in two disturbing incidents from the sports world that made headlines in the past week.
Earlier this week, Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson stepped down, stating his intention to sell the team, because of a 2012 e-mail that he had written and that was to (and eventually did) become public. In the e-mail, Levenson expresses his thoughts on attracting more white fans to the arena and marketing to white fans in general, including for example that there were “not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base” and that he wanted “some white cheerleaders” and “music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy.” Levenson, in stepping down, issued a statement apologizing for his e-mail and its “inflammatory nonsense.” Interestingly, Jason Whitlock, an African-American columnist for ESPN.com, and former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have both written pieces that have defended Levenson and his e-mail, stating that the Hawks owner is not a racist, but a businessman asking reasonable questions about race and how to put customers in seats.
It has come to light that the existence of Levinson’s e-mail was actually uncovered as a result of an investigation due to a separate incident. In June, Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry had a conference call with the various owners of the organization, which was recorded so notes could be made for the partners unable to participate live. In discussing player personnel issues, Ferry allegedly was reading off a report generated by team sources when he spoke about then-free agent Luol Deng (now signed with the Miami Heat) and stated “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 in the back” and further describing Deng as a two-faced liar and cheat. As a result of Ferry’s comments, a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks spearheaded an investigation that eventually also led to the discovery of Levenson’s e-mail. Ferry has issued an apology but has refused to step down as GM despite outside pressure to do so.