Ressler a step forward because his name isn’t Levenson, Gearon

The NBA has approved the sale of the Hawks to billionaire Tony Ressler (here with his wife, actress Jami Gertz). (Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)

The early days of the Atlanta Spirit Group. Ah, good times. (AJC photo)

The early days of the Atlanta Spirit Group. Ah, good times. (AJC photo)

Congratulations, Mr. Ressler: Here are the keys to your basketball team.

Now please change the locks.

The sale of the Hawks from the Atlanta Whining Toddlers on Parade to Tony Ressler was rubber-stamped by the NBA on Wednesday, thereby officially ending the reign of terror of possibly the worst ownership in the history of professional sports.

No more Washington group vs. Atlanta group. No more lawsuits. No more buffoonery, at least we hope.

There is no guarantee Ressler will be a great sports owner, or even a good one. But I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, merely because his name isn’t Levenson or Peskowitz or Foreman or Gearon or Sleepy or Dopey. I’ve never really had a problem with partner Rutherford Seydel. He always seemed a harmless enough guy who just happened to join forces with the wrong used car salesmen.

The NBA has approved the sale of the Hawks to billionaire Tony Ressler (here with his wife, actress Jami Gertz). (Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)

The NBA has approved the sale of the Hawks to billionaire Tony Ressler (here with his wife, actress Jami Gertz). (Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images)

Nothing can undo the damage the Atlanta Spirit did. Atlanta lost its NHL team because those knuckleheads didn’t care about the sport, didn’t want the team, ran the franchise into the ground and then threw it onto the first northern-bound wagon they could find. Their actions before, during and after the Thrashers’ sale were nothing less than contemptible, right down to the day when Levenson — who orchestrated the whole thing — hid in his bunker when the team was moved to Winnipeg and wouldn’t deal with the backlash.

Nothing can reverse the blizzard of litigation between the two groups, or the backroom brawls or sandbox fights, or the fact that the Atlanta group — led by Michael Gearon Jr. — would have done anything to get former general manager Danny Ferry out of town, regardless of how many games the team won. Why? Because Ferry largely took his marching orders from Levenson, ignored Gearon as a major partner and burned bridges with Dominique Wilkins, Gearon’s pal and the franchise icon.

That’s not meant as a defense of Ferry — obviously he could have handled a lot of things better. But Gearon and his father have shown themselves to be spineless weasels with their actions. Never trust someone who when you shake hands with him, you only get four fingers back.

It’s appropriate that the unofficial end for the Spirit came because of shame — the Levenson email which played to racial stereotypes and use them as an excuse for small crowds. Among the wonderful excerpts:

“(The crowd is) 70 pct black … the cheerleaders are black … the music is hip hop … at the bars it’s 90 pct black … we are doing after game concerts to attract more fans and the concerts are either hip hop or gospel. … 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. … I think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority.”

Strange. Crowds weren’t a problem this past season. Fans were white, black and every shade in between. Maybe because the team was winning.

But I don’t want to make a rash assumptions, like, “White fans won’t come to the game because they don’t like hip-hop.”

What a dolt.

The only mystery here is that Gearon will still  be a minority owner in this group, expected to retain about a one percent stake. Some New York-based Spirit partners also are expected to be “investors” in the new setup.

I don’t understand that. It would be better if Ressler started clean with all new faces and spines that weren’t the consistency of gummi worms. But if he’s really the only one with a vote in important matters and all of those dysfunctional conference calls among partners go away, it will be an improvement.

Atlanta should be pleased as well. Because while we don’t know what the next regime will bring, at least it ends the last one.

 

Reader Comments 0

84 comments
Stnicholaus
Stnicholaus

Will the ticket takers have to work for tips now? 

Stnicholaus
Stnicholaus

Forget to mention ,he's a carpet bagger too. 

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

Ya know Schultzie, you are a frikken moron. 


The old owners got rid of a team no one wanted to see, or pay to see.  Detroit, Toronto, Chicago all great hockey cities. Atlanta had 200 people come out to protest. 200! But you, you always want make it personal. It is obvious you have a vendetta against Levenson for some reason. I have been reading your junk for a few years and it comes through loud and clear. Because of you, I have done some research on Levenson, and he is a very decent man. A philanthropist and person involved in social justice issues. What have you done other then exploit people close to you for your own personal gain?  


You're a frikken cry baby Schultz. Change your diaper and man-up. 


Let's recap the old owners shall we. Most consecutive playoff appearances in NBA history.  Coach of the year. Best season record in history of the team. First time in division championship, I could go on, but making you look so stupid is tooooo easy. 


But all you do is throw names out there, pay no attention to facts and berate people based on nothing. You are so self centered, you try to take anything good and if it is not about you, then you make it bad, so it can be. 


I use your blog and column to train my dog Schultzie. 

tmc
tmc

Since the Atlanta Spirit Group wanted Ferry out should be all the new owners needed to know about what to do with Danny Ferry. They should re-hire him right away and only need to say that the old guys didn't want him, so he's our guy.

EVERYONE in this city would completely understand.

khd713
khd713

@tmc Uh, it was the new owner who fired Ferry.

Southern Rodent
Southern Rodent

Burn in Hell, ASG!! I have not set foot in Philips since they screwed the Thrashers franchise and their fans over. What a bunch of sad clowns. None of them will be missed. 


Bring the Coyotes to Atlanta!

ZAZ
ZAZ

What makes me uncomfortable about Ferry is that he didn't have the sense/judgement to conclude that those stupid written statements were inappropriate and irrelevant. You can't get around the fact he seemed to be OK with including it in an official sense. Bad judgement is not an isolated kind of thing. When you have it…it will continue to rear its ugly head. What was next from him? The new ownership group needed a clean slate and didn't need the distractions that come with keeping a lightening rod about the building. It was a safer decision. Simple as that…..

Big Wally
Big Wally

@ZAZ The same sense/judgment signed Milsap, Carroll, resigned Korver, built a roster that won 60 games, got rid of Iso Joe, and J. Smooth.   I will say that his biggest lapse in judgment was not realizing that little Mikey Gearon was a back stabbing, rat-faced weasel, that would stoop to any level to try to get him fired since he didn't worship the ground he and his daddy walked on.

tmc
tmc

@Big Wally @ZAZ don't forget getting rid of Sheldon Williams and Marvin Williams and their contracts too. NO ONE and i mean No one thought he would every get rid of J. Johnson and Marvin Williams. That alone should have earned Danny Ferry 100 passes on bad judgement alone.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@tmc @Big Wally @ZAZ Very True.  I would rather have a GM who can do all of that, rather than some PC GM who can "filter" comments from some scouting report (as one regular blogger keeps harping on).

khd713
khd713

@ZAZ Look, it's not up to him to determine if the comments are stupid and irrelevant. It was his job to share with the ownership everything he knew about a player so that they could be part of the decision-making process. He certainly wouldn't want it to come back on him that he neglected to share information that later turned out to be important. What he should have done, as simple as retrospect makes it seem, is say, "These are not my words, but here is what one scout says about Deng . . .". By stating that simple clause before reading the scout's "analysis", he would have avoided this entire ordeal and would still be employed. Well, maybe. I'm sure Gearon would have found some other means to get him fired.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Couldn't agree more with Schultz on this one.  One of the best posts he's ever penned.  Again, I understand pushing Ferry out, but I don't support it.   His absence will do more harm than good and this franchise needed him to continue to keep things moving in the right direction.   I fear the Hawks just took a half step backward.

Runner508
Runner508

Holy crap. It's the lady from "Twister"!!

JackClemens
JackClemens

@Runner508 Bill Paxton's new squeeze in that flick, as opposed to Helen Hunt the old one. I prefer Helen Hunt.

Polskidawg
Polskidawg

"...officially ending the reign of terror of possibly the worst ownership in the history of professional sports." 


Jeff – you are being too kind with this description. Try this one:


"...officially ending the reign of terror of the worst, most disingenuous and dishonest ownership in the history of professional sports."


You have my permission. 

BasketballTopFan
BasketballTopFan

CONGRATULATIONS Tony Ressler  !!!


Welcome to Atlanta.


We wish you good luck and success with the Atlanta Hawks.

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

Jeff, you, Mark Bradley and Chuck Oliver were the ONLY people to ever call out Atlanta Spirit during their reign of error.

mark513
mark513

Jeff you could not be more wrong about the new owner being welcomed, he already did the spineless thing and let go the best general manager in franchise history. I love coach Bud but it remains to be seen if he can do it all and if this model fails then we will look back to very first decision Mr. Ressler had to made as a spineless gutless call. He allowed the "Spirit Group" read Micheal Gearon to ruin a franchise over his ego by destroying the one guy who the "Spirit Group" read Levinson got right in hiring. Oh by the way if this model fails and there is no money left for a new arena guess what else this new owner may do, move the team!

ZAZ
ZAZ

@GSUEAGLE4LIFE Maybe they didn't notice in Statesboring, but we were furious up here in Atlanta.




@Hell Horsey@GSUEAGLE4LIFE GSU is closer to right than you might want to believe. The team was unbearable to watch towards the end and few [relatively speaking] cared when the team left. I went to the second to last game and it was the worst professional sports performance I had seen in my lifetime. It was amateurish; I was shocked at how bad a brand of hockey it had become. The ATL market is a tough nut to crack for a non-traditional sport in the south. It takes a very focused and persistent business/marketing strategy to gain community support year-to-year. The Predators are a prime example and that began with the illusion that Preds ownership was allowing the fans to select the name and LOGO….and the rest is history, but it was a long road of fighting the fight for more than a decade. By the way, My son is an Eagle and loves every minute he is in Statesboro. As he says, it grows on you.

ZAZ
ZAZ

Jeff, don't hold back. How do you feel about these Spirit guys? ;>)))



Terrytime
Terrytime

Now Bring Danny Ferry Back! He had the Hawks flying in the right direction!

Big Wally
Big Wally

Perhaps we should add a statue of Gearon next to Dominique's statue sniffing his jock strap.

MisterNeutron
MisterNeutron

Mr. Ressler, welcome.  We've been waiting for you.  Here's how to endear your organization to thousands and thousands of fans:


1.  Get rid of anyone left from the Atlanta Spirit Group.

2.  Put a minor league hockey club in Philips Arena.




drmaryb
drmaryb

THE ZOO at CYCLORAMA!

The Eight Feces Throwing Orangutans are gone yawl. The Zoo's main attraction has been released and returned to the wild!! Pass the popcorn, please?

afx
afx

thank you Jeff, brilliant piece, hope decade long nightmare for Atlanta pro sports gone forever. will soon find out if new owner smart enough to dump weasel,  Gearon who not deserve even clean toilets at Philips. get him out ASAP MR. Ressler. 

1337S0lja
1337S0lja

The only hockey game I ever went to was a Thrashers game. It was so much fun and the stands were populated. I never understood why they left until I joined the AJC and felt the ANGER!!!

BigIrishMike
BigIrishMike


I watched the Nique story on the SEC network yesterday. It was repeated by a few that Nique needed to feel wanted and liked. Hmm some things don't change. No doubt NBA hall of famer, great scorer, played defense some but bottom line no championships. Even his UGA team made the final four after he left !  He has his statue to remind us that no NBA championships were won(see Murphey statue in baseball) it is time for him to take it to the house. If you believe talk radio he was angling for the GM job all along. That ship has sailed too. Let us be serious Mike Glenn needs to be   on the broadcast of Hawks games and Nique if you want him to stay they can trade jobs.

GetontheGusBus
GetontheGusBus

I agree never understood why Mike Glenn was taken off from doing the game commentating. He is really good and lot better speaker than Niqe

he_of_stinky_wind
he_of_stinky_wind

2 thoughts:


Milf alert.


That the Gearons would hook their wagons onto 'Nique' says enough.  His 'analysis' is a reflection of the personal decisions made before Ferry arrived.  One word summarizes, clueless.

JackClemens
JackClemens

Yes, welcome Tony Ressler. And thanks, Schultz for calling out Mike and Mikey Gearon for what they are. You are right, Ferry should have been more politically astute, or maybe just polite. But what the Gearons -- especially Baby Gearon -- did to poison the Hawks' well was repulsive.

Salty55
Salty55

Ressler?  Hmmm...looks like Dennis Quaid to me!

hotice
hotice

Relocation of NHL also a possibility! Third time's the charm! Never Say Never!

hotice
hotice

NHL wants back in The ATL! Let's get a Franchise! Only 500 Million! Let's move this Ressler Machine to The Burbs!

ChuckinAlpharetta
ChuckinAlpharetta

@hotice


Sorry Mr. Bettman - fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice... go suck eggs in Winnipeg

Adam007
Adam007

Yeah Man! Coach Bud and I will drink to that!

JackClemens
JackClemens

@Adam007 Please leave this man alone. He's only the coach of the year and a decent dude.

Dsyelxia
Dsyelxia

Boy, are you naive, Schultz. Any owner that thinks firing Danny Ferry is a good move is wet garbage on a summer day.

The owners' names may have changed but it is the same ol' idiot mentality in charge.

Hawks will finish 4th place next season and lose in the first round. Bank on it.


58Supersports
58Supersports

Holy Cow they started off with the Ugly new uniforms...how stupid!

GSUEAGLE4LIFE
GSUEAGLE4LIFE

I dont think there was much backlash when the thrashers left.  Honestly I dont think anyone really noticed

ZAZ
ZAZ

@Hell Horsey @GSUEAGLE4LIFE GSU is closer to right than you might want to believe. The team was unbearable to watch towards the end and few [relatively speaking] cared when the team left. I went to the second to last game and it was the worst professional sports performance I had seen in my lifetime. It was amateurish; I was shocked at how bad a brand of hockey it had become. The ATL market is a tough nut to crack for a non-traditional sport in the south. It takes a very focused and persistent business/marketing strategy to gain community support year-to-year. The Predators are a prime example and that began with the illusion that Preds ownership was allowing the fans to select the name and LOGO….and the rest is history, but it was a long road of fighting the fight for more than a decade. By the way, My son is an Eagle and loves every minute he is in Statesboro. As he says, it grows on you.