May 27th, 2024

Reality Check

Reverse Race Card: NBA Owner Outs Himself --- as a 'Racist'

Larry Elder

By Larry Elder

Published Sept. 11, 2014

  Reverse Race Card: NBA Owner Outs Himself --- as a 'Racist' Bruce Levenson, racist?

The NBA's Atlanta Hawks owner has discovered that he is, Lord help him, a "racist"! How do we know this? He tells us.

Owner Bruce Levenson "outed" himself by producing an email he wrote back in 2012. Now, to the untrained eye, this email might read like a standard analysis of how to attract a larger and more diversified market share. But Levenson now realizes that he was practicing ... racism! So in the interest of purging the NBA of all "racist" owners, Levenson is reluctantly now offering to sell his team.

What exactly did the "incendiary" memo say?

It discusses what Levenson calls a serious marketing problem: a too-small fan base of affluent season-ticket holders, specifically white ones in a city that's majority black. You don't think General Motors or Taco Bell isn't conducting similar analyses? And doesn't President Barack Obama whine about financial "inequality," that the net worth of blacks trails of whites? But when Levenson says the same thing in a marketing memo, he becomes a bigot — and a self-admitted one at that.

The memo actually chastises whites — not blacks ?- for their "racist" fear of danger in going to the downtown stadium. Levenson writes: "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. Please don't get me wrong. There was nothing threatening going on in the arena back then. I never felt uncomfortable, but I think Southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority. On fan sites I would read comments about how dangerous it is around Philips, yet in our nine years, I don't know of a mugging or even a pickpocket incident. This was just racist garbage. When I hear some people saying the arena is in the wrong place, I think it is code for there are too many blacks at the games."

If anything, white people might be a bit ticked off at being described as racist scaredy cats.

Curiously, the 2012 memo surfaced as part of a team investigation into a "racist" remark made by their general manager. Even though his specific comment was never made public until later (he described a player from Africa as having some "African in him"), the general manager apologized, received an undisclosed punishment, but remains on the job. But the team owner now describes himself as too racist to continue owning the team. Huh?

Oh, sure, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed cried as if he had just been water-boarded: "The published remarks made by Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson are reprehensible and offensive. The statements do not represent the City of Atlanta's history of diversity and inclusion, and we will be clear and deliberate in denouncing and repudiating them. I applaud the NBA's efforts to enforce a no-tolerance policy of discrimination."

Something stinks.

Haven't the Hawks been losing $3 million a year? And didn't Levenson try to sell the team before? Sports Illustrated writes: "In 2011, Levenson thought he had a deal to sell ... only to have negotiations fall apart at the 11th hour. The NBA landscape has changed dramatically since then, with sales of the Milwaukee Bucks ($550 million) and Los Angeles Clippers ($2 billion) sending franchise values skyrocketing and the promise of a lucrative new television deal serving as a carrot that has prospective owners tripping over themselves to overbid. A team like the Hawks, which Forbes recently valued at $425 million, could fetch double that.

"'I think what happened was he saw how much teams were going for and wanted to make some money,' a rival team executive said. 'What (Levenson) said was wrong, but to me it seems like an excuse to sell.'"

And isn't the timing awfully strange given Donald Sterling's "involuntary" sale of his team, the Los Angeles Clippers, for an eye-popping $2 billion following the disclosure that he, too, is a "racist"?

And isn't Levenson's "outing" himself as a "racist" a Sterling-like ploy to convince the IRS that a sale — at a time when NBA franchise price tags are rising to shocking heights — was "involuntary," thus possibly hoping to invoke an IRS provision that allows a deferral of capital gains taxes?

Thus is the status of "race relations" in 2014.

One NBA owner, deemed "racist," sells his team for nearly double that of its most optimistic appraisals. Meanwhile, another owner intends to give another wealthy "savior" the opportunity to purge the Altanta Hawks of their "racist" owner — while, of course, paying handsomely for the privilege.

Wait! This just in: I've discovered that I, too, am racist. Yes, it's a belated discovery, but a discovery nonetheless. To purge my neighborhood of the stain, I involuntarily place my house up for sale — starting at three times its appraised fair market value.

Bring your checkbook.

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Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.