Another NBA owner is in hot water over racially charged comments and is now selling his team because of one email he himself reported to the league.
Bruce Levenson, the controlling owner of the Atlanta Hawks, has agreed to sell his stock of the team after sharing with NBA officials an email he sent in August 2012 that worried the Hawks’ fanbase was too African-American and it was scaring away potential white fans, USA Today reports.
“My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a signficant [sic] season ticket base,” Levenson wrote in the email. “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… And many of our black fans don’t have the spendable income which explains why our f&b and merchandise sales are so low.”
Levenson issued an effusive apology for his comments Sunday morning.
“I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive,” Levenson stated in a press release Sunday. “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.”
This latest controversy follows the Donald Sterling scandal where audio was leaked of the now former Los Angeles Clippers making disparaging remarks about blacks. Sterling was forced to sell the Clippers by the NBA shortly after his comments were publicized and Levenson reported his email to association in July during its legal fight with Sterling over the sale of his team.
Levenson was one of the strongest critics of Sterling among league owners and called for his immediate banishment from the game.
“Sterling should be given the maximum penalty for his comments,” Levenson told a local Atlanta sports radio show in April. “I strongly believe that the league has to have a zero-tolerance policy against racism and discrimination in any form and I have faith that commissioner Adam Silver will act in what’s the best interest of the league. I have expressed these views to Adam and my fellow owners.”
Levenson is stepping down from his ownership role immediately and the NBA is now in the process of finding a potential buyer for the Hawks.