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Bruce Levenson, the owner of the Atlanta Hawks since 2004, has announced he is selling the NBA franchise after a racially charged email he penned emerged.

Levenson is the second owner of a professional basketball team to come forward and sell his share in light of racist comments this year. He informed NBA commissioner Adam Silver of his decision to sell the team after an investigation into the email, sent two years ago, revealed Levenson’s details on how to attract more white fans.

According to the NBA, Levenson himself made the league aware of the racist correspondence. His motive for coming forward is not immediately clear, but according to the New York Times, the emergence came around the same time Donald Sterling hired private investigators to dig up information on other NBA owners who he claimed had similar sentiments.

From the New York Times:

“…the Hawks released the text of the August 2012 email, in which Mr. Levenson speculated that the team’s black fans had “scared away the whites” and that there were “not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”

“I think Southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority,” Mr. Levenson said in his email, pointing out that he had earlier told the executive team that he wanted “some white cheerleaders” and “music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy,” and that he thought “the kiss cam is too black.”

Mr. Levenson’s email was sent on the night of Aug. 25, 2012, to Danny Ferry, the team’s general manager, and Ed Peskowitz and Todd Foreman, two members of his ownership group. While commenting on various aspects of team business, Mr. Levenson included a long passage linking the team’s struggles to sell season-ticket packages to its inability to attract white fans and corporations. In bullet points, he observed that 70 percent of the crowd seemed to be black, that the cheerleaders were black, that music played at the arena and at postgame concerts was hip-hop or gospel, and that “there are few fathers and sons at the games.” He also noted that the racial makeup at Hawks games did not match other arenas around the league.

Levenson released a statement regarding the email and the racially charged comments within.

“If you’re angry about what I wrote, you should be,” he said. “I’m angry at myself, too. It was inflammatory nonsense. We all may have subtle biases and preconceptions when it comes to race, but my role as a leader is to challenge them, not to validate or accommodate those who might hold them.”

Wonder how many NBA owners are a part of that Sterling-Levenson club…


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