Atlanta Hawks Owner Bruce Levenson Sent Racist Email in 2012, Will Sell Team

The NBA announced on Sunday that Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is selling his interest in the franchise. Levenson is selling his team due to an email he sent to other Hawks owners and team GM Danny Ferry in 2012. The email offered suggestions by Levenson to increase the team’s white male fanbase and presented stereotypical observations about the Hawks’ black fans. Levenson actually reported himself to the league back in July and gave NBA commissioner Adam Silver the email. Silver has been investigating the issue since, and Levenson decided to go ahead and sell his interest in the franchise rather than become a distraction.

To Levenson’s credit, he takes full ownership of the content of his email. He released a statement on Sunday apologizing for his comments and chastising himself for focusing on race when it came to the team’s fans while pushing broad stereotypes and biased opinions. “In trying to address those issues, I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. 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). By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans. If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be. I’m angry at myself, too. It was inflammatory nonsense. We all may have subtle biases and preconceptions when it comes to race, but my role as a leader is to challenge them, not to validate or accommodate those who might hold them.”

Deadspin got a hold of the full email on Sunday. Below are excerpts from Levenson’s email, courtesy of Deadspin. “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. 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. And many of our black fans don’t have the spendable income which explains why our f&b and merchandise sales are so low. At all white thrasher games sales were nearly triple what they are at hawks games (the extra intermission explains some of that but not all).”

The Rev. Al Sharpton released a statement on Sunday applauding Levenson’s decision to sell the team in light of his comments.“The announcement by Bruce Levenson is welcomed and appropriate by those of us in the civil rights community, that raised the issue of Donald Sterling’s need to be removed, and that other owners must be held accountable.”

Sharpton also called on Silver to continue vetting prospective and current owners of franchised to ensure that issues surrounding race relations with fans and players are properly addressed and resolved.

In the end, Levenson should be commended to a degree for bringing this to the attention of the league and taking the step to sell the team and remove his association with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks. With the issues the league had to deal with surrounding former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling still fresh on everyone’s mind, it is imperative that the NBA make the proper decisions regarding this situation. Thankfully, Levenson realizes the error of his ways and is taking steps to try to make it right. While his words were reprehensible and should be condemned, Levenson knows they were wrong and isn’t trying to make an excuse for them.


Celtics Release 2014-’15 Schedule

The Boston Celtics released their schedule for the 2014-’15 season on Wednesday.  The Celtics will play only one nationally televised game on January 14th at home against the Atlanta Hawks. This means the Celtics are not a premier team in the NBA.

Their lone star (Rajon Rondo) is in the final year of his contract. Their roster is filled with either players who have been disappointments (Jeff Green, Evan Turner, and Tyler Zeller) and rookies like Marcus Smart and James Young.

The Celtics schedule in November looks to be daunting. They have to travel to Houston (Rockets), Dallas (Mavericks), and Chicago Bulls. The only game where they could be favored is on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers. Then they have a six-game road trip through the Western Conference from January 19th through January 28th.

Here are some notable games for Celtics fans to look forward to.

-October 29th – The Celtics open the season versus the Brooklyn Nets at the Garden. Kevin Garnett could be back with the Nets. This might be Garnett’s final season in the NBA.

– November will be filled with home dates against the elite teams in the NBA. On November 12th, the Celtics will square off against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Two nights later, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will visit Boston. Then on November 28th, the Bulls make their first appearance at TD Garden. On the last night of November, the Celtics will face the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

– Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries, and the Washington Wizards play in Boston on December 7th in their only visit to Boston.

– The Celtics will not play on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. Boston sports fans will have a doubleheader with the Bruins and Celtics both playing at home on Black Friday (annual ritual except in the case of lockout) and New Year’s Eve. The Celtics will host the Bulls on Black Friday and they will see the Sacramento Kings on New Year’s Eve.

– In January, the Celtics begin their journey on the West Coast against Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers come to Boston on March 29th.

– The All-Star break is lengthy this year as the Celtics will be off from February 11th until the 20th. The Celtics last game before the All-Star break and trade deadline (February 19th) is against the Hawks at home. This could be Rondo’s final game with the Celtics among other veterans like Brandon Bass, Green, etc.

– Featured rookies: Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves will be in Boston on December 19th. The Milwaukee Bucks led by Jabari Parker play in Boston on April 3rd.

– The Celtics’ two meetings against the Los Angeles Lakers will be on December 5th (in Boston) and February 22nd (in Los Angeles).

This season appears to be another frustrating trek in the win-loss column. Though,there could be some interesting developments in the 2014-’15 season such as whether the Celtics will move Rondo and the development of Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Smart, and Young. Next summer, the Celtics will have money coming off their books, but Kevin Love is not walking through that door.

NBA Week in Review: 4/28/14

Welcome one and all to my second Week in Review! Despite the black cloud that is currently being cast by Donald Sterling, I wanted to use this space to cover each First Round series and offer my expectations for the final few games. There may or may not be a piece on the Donald Sterling comments coming later.

Eastern Conference:

Our journey begins in Hotlanta where the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks are knotted up at 2-2 heading back to Indiana for game 5. The Pacers squeezed out a much needed road win on Sunday and still are the favorites in this series. The shame here is that the Hawks are going to lose because they just don’t have enough. The Pacers are primed to be upset and with a healthy Al Horford, I think that Atlanta might have enough to do it. Unless they go absolutely crazy with the 3 ball, Indiana is just too talented to lose 2 of 3 to a team that finished with a losing record and would’ve missed the playoffs by 10 games in West. Pacers still win but don’t be surprised to see this go the distance.

Charlotte versus Miami has been exactly what we thought it would be. Al Jefferson, even though hurt, has played extremely well but Charlotte just can’t match up with Miami. They can’t play good enough defense to keep the Heat in check and they don’t score enough to outscore Miami. That is a very, very bad combination and it showed in the blowout loss in Charlotte’s first home playoff game in a long time. I am hoping for their fans that the Bobcats pull the game tonight but it won’t matter. This series is over!

Now we get to the two most intriguing series thus far in the East. The Raptors and Nets have lived up to exactly what I thought this series would be: two pretty good yet very flawed teams where someone has to win. Toronto is playing very good defense right now and got a HUGE road win on Sunday to take back home-court. The Nets really miss the scoring of Brook Lopez because there is a conspicuous hole in their front court. The Raptors meanwhile are just plugging along and no one is really talking about them. I really hope they win because Toronto has been starving for the Raptors to be good and the national stage could be a great way to develop some stars for that organization. This one will go down to the wire: I am hoping Raptors in 7 but I am starting to lean Nets in 7.

We wrap up the East with the Wizards and Bulls. I don’t think many hardcore NBA minds are surprised that Washington has almost wrapped this series up. While I love the play of Noah and feel the Bulls cast of players is solid, they just do not have a go-to scorer at the end of the game when you need a bucket. No offense to him but when DJ Augustin, the guy you picked up earlier this year for nothing is your second best player, that’s when you know trouble is a-brewing. Washington is a fun, young, enigmatic team that as a fan, it’s hard not to be drawn toward. You can watch them play beautiful basketball and then like game 3, you can watch Nene headbutt someone and get tossed. Now up 3-1, the onus is on Washington to close this series up as quickly as possible. Young teams have notoriously had a hard time closing out veteran teams and this should be no exception. Wizards should move on and continue to grow this very good, young nucleus.

Western Conference:

I am channeling my inner Will Smith when I refer to this as truly the Wild, Wild West. Every series out West is close, long shots are leading title contenders, there are over time games and buzzer beaters galore. I know Hollywood is running out of movie ideas but they could take a creative direction from the Western Conference playoffs.

Dallas and San Antonio have long been in-state rivals. Going into this series, the Spurs had won 10 in a row over them and I (along with most people) predicted this series would be quick. San Antonio is so deep and isbuilt for the playoffs. The Mavericks on the other hand love giving up leads, choking games away late and squeaked into the playoffs edging out the Suns. So naturally, Dallas would be leading this series 2-1 and if they win out at home, will knock out the best regular season team in the NBA. Vince’s double-pump 3 from the corner to win it yesterday was awesome and reminded me once again why he was one of my favorite players growing up. Dallas is playing how I expected them to but the real kicker is the Spurs. I expected close games until the 4th quarter when San Antonio would defensively kick it into another gear and offensively be very efficient and pull away. That is not happening. The Spurs are playing down to Dallas’ level and are paying the price. To win this series, the Spurs just need to play Spurs basketball which is total team contribution and making plays down the stretch. This series will likely go the distance and the Spurs should come out on top. That being said, Game 4 tonight is a must-win for San Antonio and I reserve the right to change my mind should they lose.

Memphis and Oklahoma City look eerily similar to last year’s Western Conference Semi-finals. Granted, OKC did not have Westbrook but the Grizzlies are proving that it just doesn’t matter. They match up extremely well with Oklahoma City with their grind it out, hard-nosed attitude. They have very capable players, one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA in Tony Allen and just play solid defense. Does Memphis have a go-to scorer? Not really. The upside of being extremely good defensively and playing true team ball is if you can contain Westbrook and Durant, OKC doesn’t really have a third option scorer either. If we get down to the total team depth of Memphis versus OKC, I think Memphis holds that advantage. The longer this series goes, the more dangerous it becomes for the Thunder. They need to end this as soon as possible and not put themselves against a determined opponent in a 1 game situation. If Durant goes cold, they could get sent home by Memphis again.

Portland and Houston have been everything I thought it would be and more. In my preview, I wrote that this series was going 7 games and Portland would win simply because these two teams are so similar but I felt the Blazers were slightly better. That’s exactly how this series is playing out. We have had 3 OT games and Aldridge has been utterly dominant. While Dwight Howard is a mismatch for the Blazers, he just doesn’t have the balanced offensive repertoire of LaMarcus Aldridge. If Houston plays Terrance Jones, Aldridge can play back to the basket. If they play Asik, Aldridge can shoot mid-range jumpers and drive all night long. It’s too bad this matchup happened in the first round because it’s been so much fun. Since both teams have shown a propensity to win on the road and now that the Rockets will play desperate, this series could still go 7 but I think the better Portland team will win.

The last matchup out West has been the weird LA Clippers vs Golden State Warriors series. Every series the Clippers will play in from now on will be overshadowed by the comments of their owner, Donald Sterling. If you saw the game yesterday, the Clippers just looked completely disengaged but who can blame them? Give credit Golden State for staying focused and taking care of business in game 4 but good luck trying to predict this series. The Clippers have long had the stigma as a snake-bitten franchise that built themselves into a title contender this season. Due to their owner comments, this could all unravel if they lose Game 5 because even though they are the better team, I don’t think they can go back to Oracle Arena and win again.

I hope you have enjoyed our week in review! Enjoy this second week of first round matchups and look for my Conference Semifinal preview when those are all set.

Thoughts on Playoffs, Adelman

I wanted to start a column where we could discuss some current happenings in the NBA on a more regular basis. Please let me know your feedback whether you enjoy or not. Also, if you have any suggestions or interests, please let me know those as well! Now, on to the news.

The number 1 seed in the East, the Indiana Pacers, lost at home to the 8th seed and under .500 Atlanta Hawks. As I said in my preview last week, the Hawks present a terrible matchup for Indiana. This is a team that can rain 3’s, are gritty and can play in low scoring games. Indiana continued to look like an absolute mess on offense and what else can be said about Roy Hibbert? He doesn’t look like he’s engaged or has any energy out there. If I were Frank Vogel, I would have to seriously consider benching him and running out Luis Scola. Scola has a better chance to defend Pero Antic on the perimeter and would at least give the impression of a player who is engaged. The Pacers continue to struggle with the Hawks and my series prediction of the Pacers winning in 5 will be wrong.

The Portland Trail Blazers, led by LaMarcus Aldridge, beat the Houston Rockets in a fantastic game late Sunday night. Aldridge is finally breaking in to the main stream national spotlight and he stole the show with a 46 point, 18 rebound performance. My concern if I’m a Houston fan is they will not be able to get the defensive stops when they need them, especially if Patrick Beverly is hurt for an extended period of time. I would also be concerned that Houston will not be able to hold a lead, especially in front of the raucous Portland crowd. I still believe this series will go the distance as Houston is just too talented to lose in a short series.

The Spurs and Thunder both look fantastic. The Spurs were trailing most of the game and then suddenly the Mavericks went ice cold and the Spurs blew by them while making it look easier than the wind blowing weed seeds around your yard (personal problem). The Thunder looked utterly dominant in their opening game versus the Grizzlies and will look to strike fear into the heart of San Antonio. From the initial eyeball test, I don’t think there will be anyone other than San Antonio and Oklahoma City competing for a trip to the finals.

Rick Adalmen retires from coaching after a disappointing season in Minnesota. There were high hopes for the Timberwolves this season with the addition of Kevin Martin and the healthy duo of Rubio and Love. They were a better team than last year but really have no defensive presence to speak of (until they decided to play Gorgui Dieng when the season no longer mattered). Their bench was awful and they lost an absurd amount of games in the last minute. I’ve always thought Adelmen is a good offensive mind but is overrated as a head coach. Early in his career, he had playoff success with Portland but in the last 19 years of coaching, he didn’t make the NBA finals. He will always be a guy that won a lot of games and made some average players much better but never was able to get over the hump. As for the Timberwolves going forward, they need to do everything they can to appeal to Kevin Love. He is their franchise and if he leaves, they are going to have to be back to a 20 win team within a couple years.