ATLANTA (AP) – Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has been disciplined by CEO Steve Koonin for making racially charged comments about Luol Deng when the team pursued the free agent this year.
The team did not provide any details of the discipline.
Atlanta's WSB-TV reported it obtained a letter from Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. which cites Ferry telling the ownership group that Deng "has a little African in him" and was "a two-faced liar and cheat."
Hawks spokesman Garin Narain said that team's investigation of Ferry's comments uncovered the racially inflammatory email written by co-owner Bruce Levenson. That discovery led to Levenson's announcement Sunday that he will sell his controlling share of the team.
Ferry apologized Tuesday but said he was only repeating comments he had heard about Deng.
"In regards to the insensitive remarks that were used during our due diligence process, I was repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources during background conversations and scouting about different players," Ferry said in the statement released by the team.
"I repeated those comments during a telephone conversation reviewing the draft and free agency process. Those words do not reflect my views, or words that I would use to describe an individual and I certainly regret it. I apologize to those I offended and to Luol, who I reached out to Monday morning."
In his letter to Levenson, Gearon compared Ferry's comments to comments made former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the team this year when his racist comments were disclosed.
"We believe these comments by Ferry were far worse than Sterling's because they were not from a private personal conversation â they were in a business environment on a business matter in front of a dozen or more people," Gearon wrote. "If Ferry would make such a slur in a semi-public forum, we can only imagine what he has said in smaller groups or to individuals."
Gearon declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
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