After several incidents some called “racist,” the Atlanta Hawks announced that it has hired its first “diversity officer.”
The team has named Nzinga Shaw as the organization’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO).
“Shaw is responsible for developing and embedding diversity and inclusion best practices throughout the organization,” a press release announcing the hire reads. “She will design a strategic, cross-departmental program that creates deeper cultural awareness and sensitivity. Additionally, Shaw will serve as a member of the Executive Committee and provide guidance to the leadership team so that they can engender inclusivity in every facet of the business.”
In the announcement, Shaw noted that she intended to make the Hawks “a model for inclusion in the NBA” and pledged to create a “strategic framework to help shift the culture so that we can create greater inclusion and engagement with all of our fans and stakeholders.”
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said that he is “committed to infusing diversity and inclusion throughout our organization” and insisted that Shaw will help him “improve accountability across the organization.”
Shaw comes to the Hawks form the public relations firm Edelman where she served as the SVP of Diversity & Inclusion.
All this comes after several very public incidents earlier this year that some felt were racist or at least bordered on racist behavior from two members of the team’s management.
In one case Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson announced that he would sell his interest in the team after “self-reporting” that he sent an email in 2012 in which he said that white fans might be afraid to attend games because there were too many black fans.
After reporting to the team and the media that he sent the email a year before, Levenson said, “After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise.”
In a second case, team CEO Koonin punished Hawks general manager Danny Ferry for reading comments that someone else had made about a prospective player for the team.
In June of this year, the team’s officials met to discuss free agency candidates and when Luol Deng’s name was mentioned, Ferry simply read a background report that supposedly included an “offensive and racist” remark–that Deng “has a little African in him.” Koonin criticized Ferry saying, “Instead of editing [out the comment], he said the comment.”
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