Don Lemon Says Atlanta Hawks Owner’s Email Isn’t Racist

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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CNN host Don Lemon went against the grain Tuesday, arguing that a 2012 email sent by Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson in which he theorized that a heavily black fan base was hurting ticket sales was not racist.

“There is no Donald Sterling-esque smoking gun here,” Lemon said on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “He didn’t say he wanted fewer black people. He said he wanted more people of the desired demographic in his business – white men between the ages of 35 to 55-years old.”

“The email was not racist,” Lemon determined.

Levenson announced on Monday that he plans to sell his majority stake in the team. He claims to have self-reported the email to the NBA in July. In his statement he said that he was ashamed at his comments in the 2012 note.

In the email, sent to team general manager Danny Ferry and two minority owners, Levenson theorized about what was behind lagging ticket sales.

“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,” Levenson wrote.

Seventy percent of fans in attendance at home games are black, the team has a high number of black cheerleaders, hip hop music is prevalent in the Hawks’ arena, and the bars surrounding the arena are 90 percent black, Levenson noted.

Those factors, plus perceptions among white fans that the area around the arena is not safe, has hurt ticket sales, the owner claimed.

Though many pounced on the email and compared it to the controversy over Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers who was taped making offensive remarks about black people, Lemon found no fault with Levenson’s brainstorming. The CNN anchor compared Levenson’s thought-process to the kind made in his own domain.

“In television, the desired age demographic is 18 to 49-years old. And according to the Nielsen company which measures television ratings, that age range is more important than the total number of viewers watching any program at any time,” Lemon said. “So, guess which age range every television show and media company targets? Eighteen to 49-year-olds.”

“In my estimation, his message to his colleagues was a smart one, in a sense,” Lemon continued. “His words may have been inartful, but the man was simply trying to run a business and not lose money. He was strategizing in an email on how to reach out to the coveted demographic to put more butts in the seats. It is just that simple.”

Lemon’s sentiments were shared by another black man, NBA legend Kareen Abdul-Jabbar.

“Well, the pitchforks are already sharpened and the torches lit anyway, so rather than let them go to waste, why not drag another so-called racist before the court of public opinion and see how much ratings-grabbing, head-shaking and race-shaming we can squeeze out of it?” Abdul-Jabbar wrote at Time.

“His worst crime is misguided white guilt,” he continued.

[h/t Mediaite]

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