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Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - 8:46pm

Atlanta Reverend: Bruce Levenson’s Premise Was Wrong

The Atlanta Hawks CEO says general manager Danny Ferry will be punished for making racially charged comments about a free agent. Ferry is the second Hawks official who facing backlash for racially–charged comments in recent days.

Team co-owner Bruce Levenson announced Sunday he will sell his share in the team after an email came to light in which he claims black fans are keeping white fans from attending home basketball games.

A group of civil rights leaders will meet with the CEO of the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday to discuss racially Ferry and Levenson’s comments.
One of those leaders will be the Reverend Markel Hutchins, who says there aren't enough African American owners of NBA teams.
He sat down with GPB “All Things Considered” host Rickey Bevington to talk about his hopes for the meeting, the Atlanta Hawks, and his opinion about the remarks.

Interview Highlights

Rickey Bevington (host, GPB All Things Considered): What is your response to the idea that this is a business conversation, and therefore Bruce Levenson’s comments in an email to his business partners are somehow excused because of the context?

Reverend Markel Hutchins (minister, civil rights advocate) Business conversations can have racially unacceptable language in them too. As is the case with Mr. Levenson. And I think his premise is off. The premise that Bruce offers in his email is that African-Americans can’t afford or don’t have enough money to be season ticket holders. That’s where he’s wrong. There’s more concentration of wealth by African-Americans in this community than any other community across Georgia and most others across the nation. The real question is could it be that the reason that we don’t have more ticket holders is {that} is has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with wins and loses. If the Hawks had the kind of record that, for example, the Miami Heat has, then everybody would want season tickets and the majority of people would be African-American. That’s the first point. The second point is the racial demographics of those who sit in the stands represent the racial demographics of those who live in the city. This is the “Atlanta Hawks” not the “Alpharetta Hawks.” So, the point is, I think Bruce’s premise is wrong. So you can’t accept a sane conclusion from an insane premise.

Rickey Bevington: And yet Kareem Abdul Jabbar who is a part-owner himself, did come to Levenson’s defense somewhat, saying that it would have been appropriate in that context. Was there anything in that email that you think did make sense.

Reverend Markel Hutchins: The reality is, that Bruce Levenson may have been right. That perhaps if there were fewer African-Americans, then there would be more white Americans. But that, even in itself, is a racial definition-- a racial context-- that we’ve got to work hard to fix. Because we have got to move to a place as a nation and as a world, where we do not, as Dr. King said, judge one another by the color of our skin. So to in some way equate finances and economic standing with race, I think that is misguided. {What} Levenson said may not have been as racially charged if it were said in, say, Boston. And not Atlanta. But the fact that Bruce said what he said in the context of not a city like Boston, where the majority of the population is white. But he said it in the context of Atlanta, where the majority population not only in the city, but the metro-Atlanta area is African-American. That’s what makes it racially charged and that’s the point Kareem may have missed.