Hawks finally get honest, Ferry takes leave

Danny Ferry is taking an indefinite leave from the Hawks. (AP)

Danny Ferry is taking an indefinite leave from the Hawks. (AP)

Danny Ferry is taking an indefinite leave from the Hawks. (AP)

The Hawks finally got honest about something Friday: It wasn’t going to work.

It doesn’t matter what side of the debate you were on about Danny Ferry’s remarks or the (latest) continental divide in team ownership. Ferry couldn’t function as a general manager. His image had been tarnished. He had become toxic. He couldn’t operate in an organization where the managing owner who had his back (Bruce Levenson) was exiting in shame and the next most powerful partner (Michael Gearon Jr.) wanted him out.

The Hawks didn’t fire Ferry, nor did he resign. For now, the team’s general manager is in relative purgatory. Ferry is taking a leave of absence, which, according to a statement from CEO Steve Koonin, “allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing.”

Healing. We need a lot of that around here. But it’s not going to happen any time soon. This is a fractured franchise. It’s not going to get better with Ferry taking a few weeks, or even months, off. The language in Ferry’s and Koonin’s statements would suggest he’s coming back but assuming anything in this organization is dangerous.

Nothing will get significantly better until the Hawks have new ownership. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single owner or a 77-member group, as long as there’s a unified plan and the respective parties agree that litigation, public mudslinging and whispering things about each other in the shadows probably isn’t the best course or action.

That’s how an organization turns into a cartoon.

I met with Ferry for a long breakfast after he was hired. We talked a little about basketball and his vision. Mostly, I asked him if he fully understood what he was getting himself into with Atlanta Spirit ownership. He said he did his homework. He believed there wouldn’t be major issues. He constantly referred to Levenson as, “owner Bruce Levenson.” I said to him, “You do realize there’s a group, right? And they don’t like each other.” He looked at me kind of sideways, as if wondering what the big deal was.

It didn’t matter that Levenson was the managing partner and he, not Michael Gearon Jr., was now the team’s governor. There wasn’t peace in the group. Gearon tells people he doesn’t mind being in the background. But he didn’t like the way Ferry and Levenson left him out of the loop, and it only figured that when Ferry messed up, Gearon was going to pounce.

Then came the conference call. Ferry read/used racist commentary when discussing the negatives about Luol Deng in a pre-free-agency call with owners: “He’s a good guy overall, but he’s not perfect. He’s got some African in him. He has a store front out front that’s beautiful and great, but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind you. He can come out and be an unnamed source for a story, and two days later come out and say that was absolutely not me.”

Take out, “He’s got some African in him,” and there’s nothing wrong with the analysis, whether accurate or not. From that point on, Gearon was on a mission.

“No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng,” Ferry said Monday.

And later: “I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me.  I will maximize my time during this leave to meet with community leaders and further educate myself and others on the extremely sensitive issues surrounding race, diversity, and inclusion.”

What took so long for him to get humble, to get honest?

What took so long for all of them to come clean?

Some day they are going to study this entire ugly chapter in Atlanta Hawks history in public relations schools. The professor will stand in front of the class, clear his throat, maybe take a Dramamine, and tell his students, “This is what a grease fire looks like.”

Ferry’s exit came the day after the Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore obtained an audio copy of the conference call. We heard Ferry’s “ums” and pauses, things that would suggest he wasn’t reading from a background report as he had claimed but rather speaking off the cuff.

Even in the best case scenario, Ferry was, to, to borrow from something that rolled by on my Twitter feed Thursday, using the “Ron Burgundy Defense”: He’ll read anything that’s on the teleprompter.

But earlier Friday, just before Ferry’s leave was announced, a Xeroxed copy of the actual background report was leaked to the AJC and WSB-TV. Ferry backers could point to that and say, “See, he was only reading somebody else’s words.”

Two problems:

• The authenticity of the hard copy report would have been more believable if released before the audio and preferably early in the week.

• That’s not to state unequivocally Ferry/Koonin/CIA operatives doctored the script. Really, it doesn’t matter. It still gets back to Ferry having had time to process analysis from some unnamed scout — who still hasn’t been publicly identified — and not running it through a filter in his brain before delivering it on a conference call with team executives. This wasn’t a case of two guys talking in a bar — or, hypothetically, even an owner talking to his mistress. This was a business meeting.

This entire week has been one PR misstep after another. The news of Levenson’s 2012 racially charged email and his impending exit was released on the first NFL Sunday of the year, as if there was some misguided belief the story would be buried. Instead, it not only was front page news in Atlanta but the Washington Post (Levenson’s home base).

Immediately after the Levenson story broke Sunday, rumors circulated about a parallel investigation in the Hawks’ front office. I made a friendly wager with WSB’s Zach Klein in the press box at the Falcons game that the betting over/under on how many times the story would change was 4½. He took the over. He won. Quickly.

The Hawks could have avoided some heartache had they been more transparent from the outset. Instead, they fought to control the narrative. The warring factions tried to top each other with leaked stories to strategic media outlets. They all lied or evaded or told half-truths. They became a national joke.

If the Hawks paid a public relations firm for guidance this week, they should ask for a refund. And if Koonin ran point, this is on him.

The Levenson and Ferry stories were going to be ugly. But  this didn’t have to play out as five days of humiliation. Had Ferry and the organization been up front about things, the healing process would be well under way. Now it’s going to take a while. And the Hawks are a mess.

Some recent ramblings (free links)
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons (real ones) over Saints
— AJC: Hawks giving lessons on how not to contain a fire
— AJC: Goodell was at Masters when Rice video arrived at office
— AJC: Adam Silver, Magic Johnson see Ferry-Deng differently
— MyAJC: Only cure: All Hawks’ owners and Ferry must go
— AJC: Levenson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar miss point about Atlanta
— MyAJC: Levenson gone but timing raises questions
— AJC: Hawks’ Levenson has ugly exit because of email
— MyAJC: Matt Ryan wouldn’t let Falcons lose
— MyAJC: Georgia Tech still looks wobbly at 2-0
— AJC: Short takes on Tech’s 38-21 win over Tulane
— AJC: Live blog: Tech tries to spoil Tulane’s party
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons (real ones) over Saints
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons (real ones) over Saints
— AJC: Video evidence of Stephen Garcia hitting bottom
— MyAJC: Falcons need Mike Nolan to create an illusion
— AJC: Michael Sam not being viewed as just a player
— MyAJC: With Todd Gurley, possibilities are endless
— AJC: Short takes: Georgia 45, Clemson 21
— AJC: Cantor’s magic tallis has cure to Braves’ problems (on Fridays)
— AJC: Weekend Predictions (no lie): Dogs over Clemson
— MyAJC: Richt, Georgia need another highlight
— MyAJC: Braves CEO Terry McGuirk vows ‘Everybody accountable’
— MyAJC: Full Q&A with Braves CEO Terry McGuirk
— AJC: It’s ‘Sack Schultz’ time. Think you can grill me?
— MyAJC: If Tech wins, it will be with a better option
— MyAJC: Predicting Georgia Tech’s season, game-by-game
— AJC: On Braves, McGuirk and repairing baseball
— MyAJC: Baseball repair list: Pardon Rose, quicken pace, shorten season
— AJC: Braves find a groove, but so do Nationals
— MyAJC: Mike Tice has a challenge — and he knows it
— AJC: Bobby Petrino, Todd Grantham reportedly feuding already

Reader Comments 0

114 comments
Jerry916
Jerry916

No free agents wanted to play for the Hawks already....due to ownership.

Mr. Ferry's term as the Hawks GM is over.  He will remain on leave until the team is sold (however long that takes), and will be dismissed, for a GM of the new owner's picking.

Sad that this franchise can't get out of it's own way.  It's going to take years to get the product on the floor to point where the city will be proud.

tyger
tyger

MELO SAYS NO ONE WILL WANT TO PLAY FOR HAWKS AFTER FERRY’S DENG COMMENTS


Here’s what ‘Melo told ESPN’s Begley today at his Citi Basketball camp in Manhattan:

“[There] ain’t nobody [who] would want to go there. At the end of the day, Atlanta, I think it puts Atlanta back even further now, from that standpoint.

“Atlanta is a great city, a great market, great people, great atmosphere. But as far as the comments [that] were made, I think it was uncalled for. From an owner, from a GM, those are not things you play with.”


This is the organizational problem created by the lack of leadership - zombie franchise..

tyger
tyger

It begs the question...


How many others...

Conduct their business affairs as Hawks?


Many supporters of DF's actions...

but wouldn't dare do such at work...


Why does he get a pass?

Iceman60
Iceman60

Seeing lots of minorities at pro games in Atlanta doesn't keep me from attending games. (High prices for tickets, parking , and food does that. )  But it sure does keep me from riding the Marta trains at night. 

Calel
Calel

What are the Hawks going to do when this new Chief Diversity Officer tells them that the team doesn't have enough white guys? Or is diversity a one-way street?

tyger
tyger

Organizational Leadership...


Or the lack thereof, is why...

DF, Levenson have to go...

Would prefer entire group...

Need fresh start...


New owner needs fair shot...

Jaded remnants of ASG sour grapes...

Disagree on 77-man group...

That is root of stink...


NBA should takeover until...

Well heeled local owner steps up...

Like New Orleans, cant be worse...


Thats all DF did, shed salary...

Had $20M this FA summer...

Signed two bench scrubs...


Parrots squawking new culture...

Right direction...to where? Purgatory???

Less wins, less attendance...

Coach DUI first day on job...

Three consecutive draft busts...

JJ, Bebe, Shroeder...


How was any of this better?

Hawks went from indifference...

To downright embarrassing...

hardworkinman
hardworkinman

Two things to note here: 1) If you read page 4 of the scouting report that was published by AJC, Ferry gives an almost exact quote of what is written (by someone else) in the report. Ferry did not make the statement, he only summarized what someone else had written. This summarization occurred in a private business meeting where people are usually free to discuss things without fear of their words winding up in the AJC and other media outlets. Who records these types of meetings unless someone is hoping for a slip of the tongue?


2) In the audio recording, Gearon laughs as he makes the statement that what Ferry said might wind up on TMZ. I did not hear any astonishment in his voice as some have asserted. Gearon obviously has an ax to grind with Ferry and this is an attempt to cover Gearon's rear end and nail Ferry at the same time.


Did Ferry make an error in judgment in the words he chose to summarize what the scouting report said? Yes, he did, but that does not go to the level of making him a racist nor does it require him to be fired. He has a responsibility as GM to the owners to give complete information. If I'm going to pay someone millions of dollars, I want to know everything - good and bad. This is yet another example of a media created firestorm that intends to destroy an individual for the sake of selling papers.



MrFish
MrFish

Schultz, how does it feel getting used by Gearon? You have a snitch minority owner using you.

Geez I wonder what someone life Madoff could get out of you?

foxdog
foxdog

And what has been a constant through all of the years of mediocrity (and less) of the Atlanta Hawks? The Gearons. He needs to be the first one gone...

HotDawg
HotDawg

So Danny Ferry Isn't gonna sign a black player in the nba? Yeah right.

The only person that has any reason to be a little ticked, is the player that they were talking about.

Nobody else.

IkeDiamond
IkeDiamond

Why give these idiots a stage to perform their racist act?

THEBITTERTRUTH
THEBITTERTRUTH

So if he would have said - "He can jump like a black man" or something similar - would that have been racist? No!! It is a fact that blacks are better basketball players than other races - or the NBA would not be predominately black. This was a complement. You need to get a life Schultz along with the other lowly PC media - and stop hyping a non-story.

JSSN
JSSN

@THEBITTERTRUTH

Wow, you missed the whole section of school regarding the difference between what "constitutes" a "fact" and the term: "perception!"

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

This Squawks saga is just another classic Losersville story. Right up there with Vicks dog trial and Eugene Robinsons hooker.

BTW, what a classic loss by the Boobs last night

drew48
drew48

What Ferry said. I'm sure that goes on at about every team in NBA, NFL & MLB. How Ferry said it is probably rated G compared to how is said elsewhere.

cloudodust
cloudodust

Look out, Salem. The Witch Hunters are on the prowl. One way to lay a little chaff in Ferry's slipstream is to say Ferry himself has a little African in him, too...Don't mean that in a bad way...

HotDawg
HotDawg

Why isn't the media asking who the scout is and is he black?

But that wouldn't go with their agenda, would it?

HotDawg
HotDawg

Who freaking appointed these people to judge what is acceptable speech?

Funny, it's the libs and Democrats that are the ones who are constantly trying to censor and punish others.

The P.C. crowd is out of control. They're basically nazis. They want to exterminate others who don't follow THEIR rhetoric. Begins with character assassination.

HotDawg
HotDawg

The speech police are out in full force. Hello nazi america. Cause that's what you got. Public mob shaming of people that said something that someone else doesn't like.

Really, who the hell is so offended, and why???

Do you live in a freaking bubble?

50Concept
50Concept

magic demands that ferry be fired!  the hawks need to do what he says.

Bordertownbound
Bordertownbound

If your still getting your feelings hurt over words, go back to grade school. Truth is, whites (majority of) really could care less about basketball.

RangeRover
RangeRover


Feel better now, Schultz?

Now you and your fellow AJC buzzards can fly down and chew on the Ferry family carnage.

Shame on you!

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

What would really be really  interesting, would be to know if whoever wrote the words that Ferry read is black or white. In this day and age, it should not be a foregone conclusion that the author was white.  And if he is not, the gut-wrenching  irony of all of this hoo-ha would be beyond obvious. My guess is that if those words were written by a black scout, that will never be confirmed . . . or denied.  


The use of racist language by blacks describing other blacks, as we are advised by by the political correctness police and the thought police, is not a reprehensible thing. It is a black, cultural thing, an in house thing. It is up to whites to know and understand that. Such language only becomes hateful, reprehensible, and racist when uttered by whites. 


No time or space here to analyze such idiotic logic, and how its application absolutely and unequivocally harms race relations in this country, but it is undeniably supported by how things really are. 


As to Bradley and Schultz, American history is chocked full of stories of Bradley's and Schultz's. They are the guys holding the nooses outside the sheriff's office, standing in front of the mob holding the torches, demanding that the prisoner be released to them . . .  before the next scheduled visit by the circuit judge. 

HotDawg
HotDawg

I thought the exact thing. Who is the scout? And is he black?

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Wasn't it the AJC that fueled up the hatred that got Leo Frank lynched a hundred years ago?

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

There is a silver lining in this mess. We are at the end of the Atlanta spirit group. Gary Bettman promised Winnipeg a nhl team and when Phoenix was not available he killed two birds with one stone by fostering the thrashers move. He got Winnipeg a team and ridded the NHL of the most dysfunctional ownership group in the history of pro sports. He must be laughing now. The ownership group has gone from lying to thrashers fan to once again humiliating itself. Unfortunate that Danny ferry who has been a quality GM is being taken down as the ownership group collapses but he made his bed the day he agreed to be a GM for these complete morons. Finally the team will be sold.

atlfanman
atlfanman

This has nothing to do with Liberals versus Conservatives. It has everything to do with a very intelligent person saying something that was totally unprofessional.

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

@atlfanman HE WAS READING A SCOUTING REPORT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. The report was the one who said something unprofessional. 

kenstallings
kenstallings

@atlfanman @Remarkable3 And if he decided to hide that one scout opinion and the Hawks signed Deng and he ended up doing what that scout said he does (plant stories in the media that hurt the team) and the owners found out, then Ferry should be fired for withholding such information.


You are totally wrong on this!


The GM's job is to tell the owners the whole story on a potential free agent so that when they decide to spend their money they have the basis for making a fully informed decision.


Despite Schultz's butt covering effort, Ferry did tell the truth on this story from the very beginning -- that he did not agree with the words but he read them verbatim to his bosses.

GTRay
GTRay

@atlfanman 

I agree with you.  Whether or not Ferry was telling the truth all along is beside the point.  Any competent manager could still have conveyed the gist of what was in the report -- that it painted Deng as being untrustworthy, and giving his own opinion, if he had one, before or after that.  However, it's an exercise in futility trying to use logic with ranters, oops, I meant "discussion participants".

atlfanman
atlfanman

@kenstallings As GM, Ferry has to be able to screen what is important and what is not. When you take in Deng's body of work as a player and a humanitarian, it should carry more weight than the insistence of bobble-head dolls.

kenstallings
kenstallings

So, the truth is revealed that Ferry was correct after all.  He was, in total fact now revealed, merely reading the words another person wrote.  It was his duty in business to ensure that his bosses were aware of all the views related to a potential free agent and not merely the views that Ferry personally agreed with.


In short, just like the AJC did to Richard Jewell, the two primary columnists for the AJC (Bradley and Schultz) went off on GM Danny Ferry practically calling him a racist.  The truth is he just read words someone else wrote and again did so only after explaining to the assembled owners that he was personally uncomfortable with those words.


One would think that the AJC would be a bit more careful and reticent about engaging in character assassination before getting all their facts straight.  But, sadly, that's not the case.  


If Danny Ferry leaves the Hawks, I think it harms the team and what a grand achievement for the Atlanta-based newspaper to conspire in carrying the water for a dysfunctional ownership group who has members who wanted to deliberately hang their GM out to dry and found an eager agent in the deed.


Congratulations Schultz and Bradley!  How does it feel to be used!

58Supersports
58Supersports

@kenstallings  Agree Ken.. Jeff and Mark could not wait to place blame, judge and jury, right or wrong, they were out to destroying   this man's life. Both should be fired.  Who can trust their reporting anymore. No respect for those two!

JSSN
JSSN

@kenstallings

Why drag the Richard Jewell Case into this? Jewell never won a single libel case. He got settlements from 3 parties, funny none of which were named Cox Enterprises (doing business as The Atlanta Journal Constitution).

GTRay
GTRay

@JSSN 

And interestingly, one of the 3 parties that agreed to a settlement was the New York Post.  Where is the righteous indignation against that obviously commie liberal rag that unfairly attacks good, upstanding white people, that wants to take away our Constitutional rights, that blindly supports that Kenyan in the White House who wants to destroy America as we know it?  Oh, wait, they were (and still are) owned by News Corp.  In the immortal words of Emily Litella -- Never mind.  Can't be criticizing the Fox News family.

kenstallings
kenstallings

@JSSN @kenstallings The lawsuit against the AJC fell apart when Jewell died.  So, it was certainly not a case of the AJC winning a court judgment.  As it stands, the simple fact that the AJC reported gross inaccuracies is why the comparison is not only valid, but entirely germane to the situation here.  The AJC did not get their facts straight before going off on a slanted reportage.  Within a three day span, the AJC went from reporting a story to condemning a man unfairly to reporting he told the truth the whole time.

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

Mark Bradly and Jeff Shultz need to apologize to DF.  The guy who wrote the report needs to be fired, the sports writers who rushed to judgement need to take a leave of absence, and the owners who don't recognize that we finally have a GM who has a clue need to get on board.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

Ferry read an inflammatory report from a scout to his bosses without editing, explaining, etc.  The GM's job is  to filter through all the information overload coming from scouts and give the considered version. 

Was he trying to give a bunch of opinions from scouts so he wouldn't be responsible for the evaluation?  What an incompetent boob.  He needed to go.

GTRay
GTRay

@PaulinNH

So according to these other posters, Danny Ferry's job was to read verbatim out loud to the owners every report that was available to the Hawks?  Really?

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@GTRay 

Makes you wonder what they think a GM is supposed to do

GTRay
GTRay

@PaulinNH

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a Danny Ferry hater.  From everything I've read about him, he's a smart, stand-up kind of guy.  And I have no reason to doubt that he sincerely regrets what he did (and didn't do).  But he screwed up on this one. And yes, it may well be that Gearon was out to get him.  But being as smart as he is, you would think he'd be careful NOT to screw up something like this, not give Gearon any ammunition to use against him - especially when it so easily could have been avoided.

kenstallings
kenstallings

@GTRay Yes, that's exactly the job of a GM in a private staff meeting with owners themed on making vital choices about who to pursue in free agency.  Further, Ferry did NOT merely read the report verbatim.  Prior to reading that segment of the scouting report, Ferry mentioned to the owners that he did not agree with that report and found the words uncomfortable.


There is clearly only one reason why this all happened.  One minority owner in the Atlanta Spirit Group wanted to destroy the principle owner thinking he could get him to leave.  So, he picked a moment to throw the team's GM under the bus via a media-driven smear campaign.