Bruce Levenson, the managing partner of the Atlanta Hawks, is now the second NBA owner in the past five months to surrender his franchise over racially insensitive remarks. Along with the release of the email, Levenson announced his intention to sell his controlling interest in the Hawks. NBA commissioner Adam Silver reacted quickly to Levenson’s announcement, condemning what was written in the email while saying he was pleased that Levenson accepted responsibility for his actions and would sell his interest in the Hawks.
These two instances have caused wonder and a worry that the league is opening a Pandora's box. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban first addressed the issue April 28, several days after the Sterling remarks were released.
"What Donald (Sterling) said was wrong. It was abhorrent," Cuban said at the time. "There's no place for racism in the NBA, any business I'm associated with. But at the same time, that's a decision I make. I think you've got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It's a very, very slippery slope."
Levenson's comments in an email go as follows.
“My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base,” Levenson wrote in the e-mail, which also claimed that the Hawks were attracting an “overwhelming black audience” and noted that “there are few fathers and sons at the games.”
In light of the Levenson situation, his comments in his email were unacceptable. There is no doubt about it. But Cuban does make some good points. How far is the NBA going to go in this? There seems to be a past in each ownership in any sport. Are we going to get rid of owners for comments that are obviously unacceptable but are from the past?
Donald Sterling's situation was obviously different than Levenson's. It seems the weight of Sterling's comments were larger, as well as his past racial allegations.
Cuban makes some great points and it should be a question for the league as well as the fanbase. Are we going to go down this road? Personally, this writer thinks that forcing owners to sell is fine, but when it hits an owner that the league really likes, they will finally see the problems in this. Sterling already did not have a great fanbase, and the audio sure did not help. Levenson may not be as known to people outside of Atlanta. So what happens if your favorite team's owner who has launched your team to a whole new level gets caught for something he said 2, 3, maybe 4 years ago? That is what we should be asking ourselves.
There is a line that needs to be in place, or maybe even just a case-by-case situation where the league looks at the weight of the comments are situation, and what action really needs to take place.
Forcing someone to sell a business that is theirs is huge punishment for things that can be forgiven. It seems this day in age of the media wants to attack anyone who does anything wrong. This is not to condone situations that have happened, merely just to acknowledge the media's goal.
After the email was revealed, Levenson made a statement,"I shared my thoughts on why our efforts to bridge Atlanta’s racial sports divide seemed to be failing,” Levenson said. “In trying to address those issues, I wrote an e-mail two years ago that was inappropriate and offensive. I trivialized our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests [i.e. hip hop vs. country, white vs. black cheerleaders, etc.] and by stereotyping their perceptions of one another [i.e. that white fans might be afraid of our black fans]. By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans."
The last question that needs to be brought up is are comments like this unforgivable? Levenson seems sincere and the Hawks lost a great owner. Even if the NBA does not force a sale, something a little less drastic could be taken into effect. Whether it is suspensions, giant fines, or anything of that sort would be a better option than jumping to strip the team from the owner.
We will not see any of this thinking until an owner like Larry Bird, Mark Cuban, and Pat Riley have something their hiding get brought up. It is a shame that it will have to come to that, and by no means is this writer saying they are hiding things, but it would have to be that drastic for the league to actually look at this punishment and the severity of it.