Hawks general manager takes leave of absence after making racial comments

Fri Sep 12, 2014 5:28pm EDT
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By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry, under fire for making racially charged remarks, has taken an indefinite leave of absence, the NBA team said on Friday.

Ferry's move follows an announcement on Sunday by majority owner Bruce Levenson that he would sell his controlling interest because he had sent a racially insensitive email. The incidents have raised concerns about racial attitudes in the franchise's front office.

Ferry's leave takes effect immediately, Hawks Chief Executive Steve Koonin said.

"It is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing," Koonin said in a statement.

Head Coach Mike Budenholzer will take charge of the team's basketball operations, he said.

In a statement, Ferry apologized for his remarks about National Basketball Association player Luol Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan. He said he would use his leave to educate himself and others about race, diversity and inclusion.

Ferry, a former NBA player who became the Hawks' general manager since 2012, has come under criticism for a June conference call in which he said Deng, then a free agent, "has a little African in him."

"Not in a bad way, but he's like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back," said Ferry, who is white.   Continued...

Shaquille O'Neal (R) jokes with former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry during a news conference at the Cavaliers' practice facility in Independence, Ohio in this July 2, 2009, file photo.REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk/Files