by A. Big Country
You’ve probably heard about the racist stereotype of the angry black woman. In TV and film, this stereotype gets a good laugh — at the expense of a large demographic of people. The General Manager of the Atlanta Hawks has gone one step further.
The team held an event they called Chalk Talk, where fans and season-ticket holders had the opportunity to pose questions to those who run their favorite team. As you’d expect, an event like this brings out some highly opinionated sports fans. At one point, as the tough questions were being fired at GM Wes Wilcox, he responded like this:
“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.”
One can safely assume that this was meant to add levity to a tense discussion between a fan and a team owner. But it came at the expense of his wife, family and black women in general. From a black man, this joke would be inappropriate. From a white man, it’s even worse.
Atlanta is the fourth largest black majority city in the United States, at around 60 percent of the population. So you can assume that many of the fans in this meeting and attending the games are also black.
The team already has a history of racially insensitive comments from its front office. In 2014, then-GM Danny Ferry, a former NBA player, was discussing forward Luol Deng on a conference call and said the following:
“He has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”
Deng was born in South Sudan.
And while that’s already terrible, just days before Ferry’s comments hit the media, an email from Hawks owner Bruce Levenson was even worse. Levenson goes on a long tirade about the number of black fans at the games, and attributes that to low sales and a perception that attending Hawks games is unsafe. Here’s a same sample from that email, as he speaks about the stadium during the games.
“— it’s 70 [percent] black
— the cheerleaders are black
— the music is hip-hop
— at the bars it’s 90 [percent] black
— there are few fathers and sons at the games
— we are doing after-game concerts to attract more fans and the concerts are either hip-hop or gospel.
“Then I start looking around at other arenas. It is completely different. Even D.C. with its affluent black community never has more than 15 [percent] black audience.
“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 area 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 9 years, I don’t know of a mugging or even a pick pocket 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.”
It’s alarming that he can call something “racist garbage” in an email where he also says that the blacks scared away the whites. The overall implication that the black audience doesn’t have money is just as horrifying.
Ferry resigned and Levenson sold the team after these comments went public.
And now we’re back to the present day, and having to embrace the reality that little to nothing has changed. In fact, new GM Wilcox was a part of Ferry’s team in Atlanta and before with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Maybe the reason fans are disgruntled is because they’re seen as second-class citizens by the team they support.