Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Levenson’

Staying On Message

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Hawks Majority Ownder Bruce Levenson The man in the picture above is Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson. I tell you this now, because before Sunday, I had never heard of him. From all indications he seems to be a decent man. No different than most, and certainly not as cartoonishly villainous as his former contemporary Donald Sterling. That said, in the post-Sterling NBA landscape, Levenson’s e-mail comments and his decision to sell his majority stake in the team have been the dominant news story this week in a sport, almost actively ignoring its World Cup. What has been most disappointing hasn’t been Levenson’s comments themselves, but the refusal to deal with them in any substantive manner beyond surface level, headline driven narratives.

This really wasn’t supposed to be an article in the first place. I read the letter, mocked it’s stupidity in a Facebook post and went on with my Sunday. While far from surprising, when the curtain is pulled back on how businesses decisions are made, it’s instructive to call out bad practices and take advantage of an opportunity to have a broader conversation. Instead, I woke up Monday to unexpectedly animated arguments and think pieces from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jason Whitlock defending Levenson as a businessman and downplaying any racism on his part.  Now let me put this as clearly as I can; I have absolutely no problem with an owner of a franchise looking into all the avenues possible to expand his fan base and support, make things more palatable for as many people as possible, and in this case make his team’s games more desirable to greater numbers of white fans. That’s his fiduciary responsibility as a business man, and wringing every last dime he can out of the product is to be expected: no more, no less. I have zero problems with him diversifying the musical selections and halftime entertainment, wanting more balance on who’s featured on the kiss cam or even the makeup of the cheerleaders. As insignificant as those items are, if they’re part of the larger problem of perception he’s perfectly in his right to tweak them.

Where Levenson ran into trouble wasn’t maliciousness, as dangerous as it is too read intent from the outside, but rather the cowardice of his action. The ease with which he slipped into stereotypes and specious remarks decrying the “few fathers and sons at the games” when the crowd was 70% Black, or shots at the “latest arriving crowd in the league” (the Lakers might have something to say about that) did him no favors. But it was the specifics to which Levenson discussed the crowd demographics he had in mind that really put it over the top:  Read more…