(Reuters) - Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who was placed on leave in September because of racially charged remarks, resigned on Monday, saying it was “critically important for me to clear my name.”
Ferry, a former NBA player who had been the Hawks’ general manager since 2012, has maintained he was simply repeating words used in the team’s scouting reports.
The Hawks said on Monday an investigation into the incident determined that the language used was not Ferry’s and in fact he recommended the club sign Luol Deng, the target of the remarks.
“While the past year has been incredibly difficult and humbling, it is critical for me to clear my name and for people to realize that I have always built a culture of respect, diversity and honesty,” Ferry said in a statement.
“Now that the key facts have been made known, I am making the difficult decision to step away from this team and this special group of players.”
”Danny Ferry is not a racist,“ Hawks Chief Executive Steve Koonin said in a statement on Monday. ”Danny showed great leadership in stepping aside in the fall so the season could proceed with as few distractions as possible.
“He has always put the team first despite the great personal difficulties he endured.”
The team launched an investigation into Ferry’s remarks after a June conference call in which the general manager said Deng, a potential 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,” Ferry added during the call in reference to Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan.
The financial terms of Ferry’s departure were not revealed although ESPN, citing sources, reported the team had agreed to a buyout that will pay him more than the remaining balance on the final three years of contract.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer assumes the role of head of basketball operations while assistant general manager Wes Wilcox takes over for Ferry.
The success-starved Hawks lost in the Eastern Conference finals after compiling the second-best record (60-22) in the National Basketball Association during the regular season.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott