Watch CBS News

Hawks Owner, Who Criticized Sterling, Will Sell Team Over His Own Controversial Email

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — A co-owner of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, who was critical of Donald Sterling after the former Clippers owner was caught making racial remarks earlier this year, will sell the team in light of  a similar controversy.

Bruce Levenson has admitted to writing an email in 2012 that stated the largely black crowds at Philips Arena in Atlanta were scaring away white fans.

Levenson said he wrote the email in an attempt "to bridge Atlanta's racial sports divide." Instead, he offered his divisive comments, including his theory that Hawks black fans kept white fans away.

Levenson said he regrets the email sent to the team's co-owners and general manager Danny Ferry in 2012 as "inappropriate and offensive." In a statement released by the team, Levenson said he sent the email due to his concerns about low attendance and a need to attract suburban whites.

He says he later realized the email made it seem white fans were more important. He voluntarily reported the email to the NBA.

"I have said repeatedly that the NBA should have zero tolerance for racism, and I strongly believe that to be true," Levenson said in the statement. "That is why I voluntarily reported my inappropriate email to the NBA.

"After much long and difficult contemplation, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the team, the Atlanta community, and the NBA to sell my controlling interest in the Hawks franchise."

In April, Levinson was one of the first NBA owners to speak on the record about comments Sterling made to V. Stiviano regarding a photograph she had taken with Magic Johnson, and her coming to Clippers game with other black men. The resulting fallout ended with Sterling losing control of the team to his wife, who then sold the team last month to Steve Ballmer.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.