Thanks to some good reporting by Yahoo! News’s Adrian Wojnaroski, we now know that Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson’s black-fans-are-bad-for-business e-mail surfaced as part of an internal investigation into racist comments made by several members of the team’s front office. The more upsetting comments came from Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who said that NBA All-Star and South Sudanese player Luol Deng had “a little African in him” in reference to his not being perfect
“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 the back,” Ferry said.
Deng issued a public statement on Tuesday to say that he doesn’t just have “a little African in him.” He has a lot, and he’s damn proud of it:
“HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM”
These words were recently used to describe me. It would ordinarily make any African parent proud to hear their child recognized for their heritage.
I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just “a little”. For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.
Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.
However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren’t comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organization or league.
Ultimately, I’m thankful to be with an organization that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.