Atlanta Hawks' Levenson Earns Big Money The Old Fashioned Way: Plain Dirty


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Levenson -- wanted more milk in his coffee

Welcome to Bruce Levenson's “Dirty South,” where Levenson believed that White people were uncomfortable attending Hawks games at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta.

He believed that the Hawks’ fan base contained too many Black people. He believed that there weren’t enough affluent Hawks fans of color to buy season ticket packages. He blamed the Black patrons of the Hawks for chasing away the White patrons.

He felt that too much hip-hop/rap music was played at Hawks games. He thought there were too many Hawks cheerleaders who were Black. Mr. Levenson even went as far as declaring that the kiss-cam at Philips Arena was “too Black.”

This is America – and every citizen of this great nation is entitled to his or her opinion whether most people readily agree or readily disagree with that opinion. Here’s the problem. Up until a couple of days ago, Bruce Levenson was the majority owner of Atlanta’s NBA franchise.

Mr. Levenson’s beliefs were revealed Sunday in a 2012 email he admitted writing and distributing throughout the Hawks’ front office and ownership group. Mr. Levenson’s email has been the center of an investigation ordered by new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Not even one month after Donald Sterling’s was forced by Commissioner Silver and the NBA league office to sell the Los Angeles Clippers franchise for making racially disparaging comments about Black people, it’s happening again.

This time, it’s in Atlanta. And as was the case with Mr. Sterling, Mr. Levenson is about to make himself a lot of money. Dirty money.

I’m curious. Was Mr. Levenson simply unaware that Atlanta boasts one of the most affluent, highly educated, and upwardly mobile group of Black Americans in the entire country? Did he not know the high number of Black professional athletes, actors, actresses, musicians, writers, and entertainers who call Atlanta home?

Did he somehow forget Atlanta’s place as the civil rights capital of America? The late, great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born and raised in Atlanta.

The Clark-Atlanta University Center (CAUC) is comprised of Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark-Atlanta University, the Interdenominational Theological Center, and the Morehouse College School of Medicine.

The CAUC is widely acknowledged as containing of the best historically Black colleges and universities in the world. Furthermore, the 2010 United States Census Bureau found the city of Atlanta's population to be 54 percent Black and 38.4 percent White.

Mr. Levenson may not have been born in Atlanta, but he lived in Atlanta. If he didn’t know these things about the city before, he should have over the course of nine years as principal owner of the Hawks. As a highly successful businessman, he should have made it his business to know these things. Dirty bird, indeed.

Examine Mr. Levenson’s words for yourself: “I think Southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority. 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.”

Southern whites? What year is he in?

I commend Mr. Levenson for self-reporting his email to the NBA league office. I commend Mr. Levenson for deciding to sell the team. While I truly believe that he regrets his inflammatory comments, has he learned anything? Will this incident make him a better person? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Time will tell.

Whether you’re the owner of an NBA franchise or the owner of a nail salon, the primary color should be green – not Black or White or Brown or Red. If you provide a service that is buzzworthy, consistently good, and customer-service friendly, the clients will patronize you faithfully and joyfully. Mr. Levenson either forgot this standard or willfully chose not to observe it as the majority owner of the Hawks. Sadly, he will soon profit from his lack of vision. Already, ownership groups are forming for the expressed purpose of overpaying Mr. Levenson for his ownership stake.

The Hawks franchise may be purchased by a more enlightened owner or a less enlightened owner. It may, hopefully, remain in Atlanta or be moved to another city -- Seattle? KC? Pittsburgh?

The next owner may spend whatever is necessary to assemble a championship caliber team or allow the Hawks to be human shields for better NBA teams.

If Atlanta lost both the Flames and the Thrashers -- the NHL franchises-- it could lose the Hawks. That’s possible.

Donald Sterling sold the Clippers for $2 billion last month. Bruce Levenson’s got next.

You can take this to the bank. Mr. Levenson is about to get paid. He will walk away with far more money than he should or he would had this racially charged email message never seen the light of day.

That cash will bring new meaning to the term "ill-gotten gain." Dirty money – pure and simple. 

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