NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who quickly emerged from David Stern’s shadow by exhibiting zero tolerance toward the racism of Donald Sterling, rejects the idea that Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry plays as the front office equivalent of the man until recently inhabiting the Los Angeles Clippers owner’s box.
The commissioner explained to USA Today, “These words, in this context, understanding the full story here, the existence of the scouting report, the fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks, what I’m saying is – and frankly my opinion — is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”
Ferry maintains that he read from a scouting report on fellow Duke alum Luol Deng when he stated that the forward “got some African in him” but “not in a bad way.” The comment then characterized Deng negatively as a bit of a shyster. Ferry’s remarks sparked outrage within the organization and the internal investigation that ultimately led to the downfall of owner Bruce Levenson, who strategized in a memo on ways to attract white fans to Hawks games.
Magic Johnson called on Ferry to resign. “I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little,'” Deng reacted in a statement. The forward, who ultimately signed with the Miami Heat, said the negative characterization linked to his heritage “saddened” and “disturbed” him.
“The discipline of a team employee is typically determined by the team,” Silver points out, “and in this case the Hawks hired a prestigious Atlanta law firm to investigate the circumstances of Danny Ferry’s clearly inappropriate and unacceptable remarks. In my view, those comments, taken alone, do not merit his losing his job.”