Silver: Ferry’s words not ‘terminable offense’ (UPDATED)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver mandated Donald Sterling’s exit over racist comments. (Peter Foley/Bloomberg)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver mandated Donald Sterling's exit over racist comments. (Peter Foley/Bloomberg)

Adam Silver mandated Donald Sterling’s exit over racist comments. (Bloomberg)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson apparently don’t view Danny Ferry’s inflammatory comments about Luol Deng through the same colored lenses.

Johnson made it clear Tuesday that he wants Ferry out, typing four messages on Twitter (all listed below) that included: “Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry should step down after making racist statements about NBA player Luol Deng.”

But Silver said Wednesday he does not believe Ferry’s inflammatory comments about Deng — which were either read from a background report or ad-libbed, we can’t be certain — do not constitute a fireable offense. “The discipline of a team employee is typically determined by the team, and in this case the Hawks hired a prestigious Atlanta law firm to investigate the circumstances of Danny Ferry’s clearly inappropriate and unacceptable remarks,” he told USA Today in Barcelona. “In my view, those comments, taken alone, do not merit his losing his job.”

More from Silver: “It’s a question of context … These words, in this context, understanding the full story here, the existence of the scouting report, the fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks, what I’m saying is – and frankly my opinion — is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”

Sports Illustrated’s Mike Rosenberg also makes a compelling argument why Ferry should be fired. The entire piece is linked here.

An excerpt: If you read Ferry’s apology, you will notice: He never mentions any scouting report. He says he was “repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources during background conversations and scouting about different players.” Repeating comments is a lot different from reading a scouting report. It means if somebody did indeed tell Ferry this about Deng, then Ferry had time to process it. He decided it was valid and repeated it to his owners.

Silver made no reference to the fact Michael Gearon Jr., one of the Hawks’ primary owners, wants Ferry fired., while exiting managing partner Bruce Levenson and CEO Steve Koonin do not.

The Hawks’ ownership and front office has morphed into a typical fight between six-year-olds in the sandbox. It’s possibly even worse than when Gearon and Levenson went to court against then-partner Steve Belkin, who attempted to block the Joe Johnson trade with Phoenix in 2005. That might have been the last time Gearon and Levenson were united on something.

There has seldom been harmony in this ownership group, and things boiled over again in June after a pre-free-agency conference with team owners and executives when Ferry said of Deng, “He has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.” Gearon also stated in the letter that Ferry completed the slur by describing the player as “a two-faced liar and cheat.”

Deng, who ultimately signed with Miami over the Hawks in free agency, put out a statement that read in part, “I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little.’ For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can do no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.”

Silver impressed many with the way he responded to the Donald Sterling situation, shortly after taking over as commissioner. The danger for Silver in this situation is new layers are being added to the story daily, from revelations of Levenson’s race-infused email in 2012 and his exit, to the Ferry story to the daily mudslinging and story-leaking from the two sides: Gearon and his father on one side and Levenson, Ferry and Koonin on the other.

I’ve made my view clear: Whether or not Silver considers what Ferry said is a fireable offense, I believe he and the organization are so tainted by the past few days that the team needs new ownership and a new general manager to truly move forward.

Here’s a link to my last column on this subject.

Here were Magic Johnson’s Tweets from Thursday:

COMMENTING IS CLOSED ON THIS BLOG

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