Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry will take an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin released a statement Friday afternoon, detailing Ferry’s departure.
While Koonin says the Hawks’ recent issues relating to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of the dispute is a disagreement amongst owners.
He says the team plans to hire a Chief Diversity Officer, and continue meeting with leaders in the community to build a better and stronger organization.
" I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that this has put a blemish on our team and our city. We should build bridges through basketball, not divide our community or serve as a source of pain."
Ferry also released a statement expressing his remorse.
"No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng. I apologize to Luol and I apologize to all that I have offended. As I have said, while these were not my words, I deeply regret repeating them.”
Ferry recently came under fire for racist comments he made about current Miami heat player Luol Deng during a conference call with team owners.
Investigation into the comments sparked a chain of events revealing an 2012 email team co-owner Bruce Levenson sent to Ferry and other team owners, citing the team’s lack of season ticket sales and poor game-day attendance on the Hawk’s predominantly black fan base.
In the email, which Levenson said he self-reported, he also denounced comments from “southern whites” who said they didn’t attend Hawks games due to the dangerous area around Philips Arena as “racist garbage.”
Levenson apologized for the email Sunday, saying he plans to sell his share of the team.
Read Hawks CEO Steve Koonin's full statement below:
“This afternoon, Danny Ferry requested, and I have approved, taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family and 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. As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process.
While the issues related to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of this dispute is an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners. That said, we have taken several steps to address what we can do as an organization to be better and stronger, including working with a diversity consultant to examine us and to train us to ensure something like this never happens again, we are committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, and we have and will continue to meet with community leaders in an ongoing way to ensure our values reflect the community in which we play and work. The process of selling the team, which is to remain in Atlanta, is already underway.
Effective immediately, our Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer, will assume oversight of the basketball operations department. He will report directly to me.
I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that this has put a blemish on our team and our city, which has always been a diverse community with a history of coming together as one. We should build bridges through basketball, not divide our community or serve as a source of pain.”