Deadspin first reported Friday that Wilcox, in an attempt to diffuse some of the tension during a contentious meeting with fans of the team before playing the Miami Heat on Dec. 7 – the Hawks entered that game having lost 10 out of 11 after a 9-2 start – tried to make a joke about his family.
“I know you guys may be angry with me,” Wilcox said, “but I’m used to it because I have a black wife and three mixed kids, so I’m used to people being angry and argumentative.”
His comment fell flat with a fan, season ticket holder Clarenton Crawford, and his wife, according to the Deadspin report, who later exchanged emails with Hawks COO Steve Koonin and later had a meeting with Koonin and Hawks senior vice president Nzinga Shaw, whom Atlanta hired as the league’s first diversity officer in the wake of prior racially offensive comments by former general manager Danny Ferry and former owner Bruce Levenson.
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Wilcox apologized in a statement to Deadspin, saying, “At an early December chalk talk, I made a self-deprecating comment at my expense regarding my family, which is multi-racial. This joke offended Mr. Crawford and his wife and for that, I apologize.”
While such comments would likely make news anywhere, they are a particularly hot-button topic in Atlanta, given that the Hawks prior history with the subject of race. Wilcox ascended to his current job once Ferry stepped down in 2015 after a long leave of absence following racially insensitive comments he made on a conference call with the team’s ownership group about then-free agent Luol Deng.
Ferry said Deng “has a little African in him,” and then added, “He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.” Ferry always maintained he was reading from a scouting report that had been prepared by a third party, which was later corroborated by an investigation conducted by a law firm hired by the team in the wake of the comments becoming public.
Deng, a South Sudan native, signed that summer with the Miami Heat.
Those comments became public along with a racially insensitive email sent by Levenson, who wound up choosing to sell his controlling interest in the Hawks after he self-reported an email he wrote to the team’s co-owners, along with Ferry, in 2012 that made several racially insensitive comments about the team’s fan base, including Levenson claiming that “the black crowd scared away the whites, and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant ticket base.”
Levenson, who grew up in Chevy Chase and graduated from law school at American University, sold the team to a group led by Tony Ressler and former NBA star Grant Hill in June 2015.
|Atlanta Hawks GM Wes Wilcox will not face discipline from the NBA in the wake of an off-color comment during a meeting with season ticket holders. (David Goldman/AP)|
Hawks GM Wes Wilcox apologizes for making racially charged joke
Atlanta Hawks?general manager Wes Wilcox has apologized for making a racially charged joke during a team-oriented discussion with close to 200 season-ticket holders and club members in December.
Wilcox, who is white, spoke at a "Chalk Talk" event before the Hawks' Dec. 7 game against the? Miami Heat. According to a story on Deadspin, fans offered opinions ranging from their dismay over coach Mike Budenholzer's job performance, to how players' minutes are being distributed, to the need for a veteran point guard.
Amid the tension that came with the questioning, Wilcox made an attempt to offer some levity with his reply.
"I know you guys may be angry with me, but I'm used to it because I have a black wife and three mixed kids, so I'm used to people being angry and argumentative," he reportedly said.
According to Deadspin, season-ticket holder Clarenton Crawford, who is black, said he and his wife were "livid' after the end of the meeting.?A little more than a week later, Crawford emailed Hawks CEO Steve Koonin to voice his concerns, Deadspin reported.
Wilcox released a statement to Deadspin to apologize, although it wasn't clear when the apology was given.
"At an early December chalk talk, I made a self-deprecating comment at my own expense regarding my family, which is multi-racial. This joke offended Mr. Crawford and his wife and for that, I apologize," he said.
Sources with knowledge of the Hawks' thinking told ESPN that the team's brass believes Wilcox told a joke that didn't resonate, and that the aggrieved season-ticket holder was angry Wilcox brushed off the suggestion of firing Budenholzer and replacing him with former? Golden State Warriors?coach Mark Jackson, an ESPN game analyst.
The Hawks have not yet publicly addressed the report beyond Wilcox's statement to Deadspin.
Danny Ferry, the Hawks' previous general manager, stepped down in 2015 after a lengthy leave of absence?following racially inflammatory comments about then-free agent? Luol Deng. During a conference call with the Hawks' ownership group, Ferry referred to comments in a scouting report when he described Deng as someone who "has a little African in him."
Deng, who is from South Sudan, eventually signed with the Heat.
In 2014, Bruce Levenson, then-owner of the Hawks, chose to sell his controlling interest after he self-reported an email he wrote to the team's co-owners and Ferry in 2012 that he called "inappropriate and offensive." Levenson said in a statement at the time that the racially offensive comments he made came as he pondered ways to bridge Atlanta's racial sports divide and increase fan attendance at Hawks games.
Hawks GM Wes Wilcox apologizes after fan insulted by racial joke
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox has apologized for making a joke a fan believed was racially insensitive.
Wilcox insisted he was only trying to make fun of himself and his family.
Wilcox, who is white, made a reference to his mixed-race marriage and family while speaking to season-ticket holders in December.
Wilcox issued a statement, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, after the fan, Clarenton Crawford, was upset by the joke.
"At an early December chalk talk, I made a self-deprecating comment at my own expense regarding my family, which is multi-racial," Wilcox said in the statement. "This joke offended Mr. Crawford and his wife and for that, I apologize."
The Hawks have not issued a statement regarding the matter.
Former Hawks GM Danny Ferry resigned on June 22, 2015, after repeating racially charged statements from a scouting report about then-free agent Luol Deng.