By Mike Conti | Twitter: @mikeconti929
The front office of the Atlanta Hawks remains in the crosshairs of a national firestorm after an audio recording of Danny Ferry using an insensitive term to describe a free agent surfaced late Thursday.
In the recording, which was obtained exclusively by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ferry is heard discussing his thoughts about free agent Luol Deng and others during a conference call with Hawks ownership on June 6. The recording essentially matches a transcript that was leaked to several media outlets earlier in the week.
“Luol Deng, for example, the rap on him is that he’s a good guy overall, but he’s not perfect, he’s got some African in him,” said Ferry in the recording. “And I don’t say that in a bad way, if that makes sense. Like, he has a store front that looks beautiful and great, but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind you.”
Ferry went on to describe concerns he had about Deng’s past with other NBA teams.
“For example, he could come out and be an unnamed source in a story, and two days later come out and say ‘that was absolutely not me,’ but talking to reporters you know it was him,” said Ferry. “He could be a lawyer in the locker room when the coach is not around, but when the coach is around he could be the greatest guy in the world.”
There is no indication from Ferry in the two minute long recording that he is reading or quoting from a report. The Hawks initially signaled that Ferry was reading a compilation of reports on Deng and other free agents, though they would not identify the author of the report.
Another voice, which was not on the telephone, was heard during the recording reacting to Ferry’s comments, though it was not clear if that speaker was gasping or laughing.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said Tuesday, before the recording was released, that Ferry would retain his job, though he would also face unspecified disciplinary action. Koonin also refuted claims that Ferry was using his own words about Deng when he gave an interview with Sports Radio 92-9 The Game on Tuesday.
“That is absolutely false,” Koonin said Tuesday. “A report was written for Danny of all the findings. That was a quote somebody said. Danny read that quote.”
This all comes as several national figures, most notably Magic Johnson, called for Ferry to resign or be fired before the recording was released. Additionally, an e-mail attributed to Hawks Minority Owner Michael Gearon Junior that was sent after the June 6 conference call and was later obtained by WSB-TV called for Ferry to resign or be fired for his comments on Deng.
Additionally, Atlanta civil rights leaders have called for Ferry to be subject to harsher discipline, and demanded a meeting Wednesday with Hawks ownership. That meeting was subsequently postponed by Koonin. The Hawks also cancelled a media basketball tournament that was scheduled for Thursday.
Prior to the release of the recording, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told USA Today that Ferry was subject to discipline from the team, not the league, and that the comments on Deng did not rise to a terminable offense.
Earlier in the week, Bruce Levenson, the man who owns the controlling share of the Hawks, confessed to sending a racially-charged e-mail two years ago that referenced issues with the gameday and arena experience for fans. Levenson also revealed that he would sell his share of the team as a result.