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Report: NBA not actively investigating source of Luol Deng African comment

Adam Silver

Adam Silver


The NBA does not care about racism.

The NBA cares about racism costing the league money.

Donald Sterling’s racism was both public knowledge – Blake Griffin knew – and evil. Sterling illegally put minorities into harm’s way through housing discrimination.

Yet, the NBA did nothing about him until TMZ leaked an audio tape that stirred public outrage, a far lesser crime than others committed by Sterling. It wasn’t the racist act itself, but the threat of players and sponsors boycotting, that finally compelled the league to act.

With the Hawks scandal, the league is again proving its priorities.

Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry is paying a price for his racist comments about Luol Deng, but Ferry has not been fired, and his reputation remains mostly in tact.


Apparently because he was just reading words that originated with someone else. A leaked copy of Deng’s scouting report has emerged, and it contains a similar African/two-faced comment to what Ferry said.

The source of that section of the scouting report is redacted, but in context, it’s very clearly someone who worked in the Cavaliers’ front office and probably no longer holds his or her position.

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

The NBA has poked around and asked some questions about the Luol Deng scouting report that was leaked recently, a league source with knowledge of the situation said. But it’s an overstatement to categorize the league’s involvement as an active investigation.
The league seems to be approaching this just as the Cavs are: The redacted report clearly seems to indicate it’s a former employee, so there isn’t much that can be done at this point.

Though the source of the comment – “Former [redacted]” – could be “Former general manager of Luol Deng” or something like that, let’s assume this person no longer works for the Cavaliers. I guess that would excuse the franchise from getting too proactive.

But what makes the NBA so sure he or she no longer works for the league?

Front office personnel change teams. The NBA’s responsibility doesn’t end just because this person left Cleveland. If the league truly cared about eradicating racism from its business, it would find the source and punish him or her. Even if the person has left the NBA entirely, many people lose their positions and then get re-hired elsewhere in the league. The NBA could have a punishment waiting if the person returns.

But that would be bad for business.

Right now, the scandal is contained. Bruce Levenson was a target, but he’s leaving. Ferry is a target, and he’s also stepped away.

As long as we don’t know who originally equated Deng’s African heritage with him being two-faced, the uproar will be minimized. Sterling, Levenson and Ferry drew attention. It’s more difficult for players, sponsors and fans to get worked up about someone unknown.

All indications are the NBA isn’t interested in changing that set of circumstances – not with this, not with anything. Again, the league’s goal is not righting wrongs. It’s avoiding bad publicity for wrongs.

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

Did Donald Sterling act worse than any other NBA owner? Yeah, maybe. He’s pretty despicable.

But I doubt he’s the only one who has sinned. The less you know about the others, the better for the NBA.

Doing what’s right is dictated by how it will affect the league’s brand. That’s why the NBA has suddenly gotten righteous about domestic violence. That’s why Sterling had to go, why Levenson is on his way out and why Ferry will likely follow.

And that’s not really so bad.

The NBA is a business run by 30 owners. They’re interested in protecting their investment, both by remaining in control and maximizing profit. Adam Silver works for them to help them achieve those aims. This is what businesses do.

But, occasionally, the league – and Silver has been its mouthpiece in this regard – tries to claim the moral high ground. This is a marketing technique designed to generate goodwill, and it usually works.

The next time the NBA tries that act, just remember, its the business that allowed someone that may or not be under its purview to state this unchecked:

He is a good guy on the cover but he’s an African. He has a little two-step in him = says what you like to hear, but behind closed doors he could be killing you. Con isn’t bad, but it’[end of page] there. African-like, store front looks great but there’s a black market section in the back.