Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson has a “novel” way of getting out of the ownership of a money losing venture: After a failed attempt to sell the team in 2011, you composed a memo detailing your theories about why the team wasn’t making a profit that are vaguely “inappropriate” in this day and age—and then “confess” the “error” in judgment and announce that you are doing the “right thing” by selling the team. Of course, it may be that Levenson learned about the imminent release of his memo, he decided to beat the media reaper by “self-reporting.”
What were Levenson’s errorful views? For starters, he wondered why were not white males and corporations not buying season tickets to games. Could it be that there were too many black fans in the stands for the tender sensitivities of white gentry to tolerate? Apparently so. Consider, according to Levenson’s own painstaking “research”:
70 percent of the fans in the stands were black (The “eye” test; I mean, who needs glasses?).
The cheerleaders were all black (Who wants those all those black guys leering at white women anyways?).
The music was hip-hop (You got me there; I can’t stand rap/hip-hop “music” myself—but you want to replace it with what, Country?).
The sports bars around the arena have 90 percent black clientele (Who cares, as long as they are spending money?).
“There are few fathers and sons at the games (That’s news—with most black “families” single mothers?).”
Ownership must be doing something wrong, because at other arenas:
“It is completely different. Even DC with its affluent black community never has more than 15 pct black audience.”
But here in Atlanta
“…in an effort to make the arena look full (at the nba's urging) thousands and thousands of tickets were being giving away, predominantly in the black community, adding to the overwhelming black audience.”
Not that Levenson is a bigot himself, of course. You just have to be honest about these things, and the “truth” sometimes has to be said, and sometimes it hurts, too:
“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 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.”
Now, reading this I honestly don’t see how anyone can construe this to be “racist,” especially when it is implied that and then stated explicitly that Levenson’s believes that racism is involved with the white fan base. Where he potentially gets into trouble are the parts where he generalizes about certain things, but nothing he said is technically untrue; these things have been said over and over again, just as often by black commentators as white.
Unfortunately for Levenson, he couldn’t cut it off right there while he was treading water, and his mind goes stupid:
“I have been open with our executive team about these concerns. I have told them I want some white cheerleaders and while i don't care what the color of the artist is, i want the music to be music familiar to a 40 year old white guy if that's our season tixs demo. i have also balked when every fan picked out of crowd to shoot shots in some time out contest is black. I have even bitched that the kiss cam is too black.”
Uh-oh. Levenson let the racists and bigots have their white cheerleaders, Country and Eighty’s music, and voila:
“Gradually things have changed. My unscientific guess is that our crowd is 40 pct black now, still four to five times all other teams. And my further guess is that 40 pct still feels like 70 pct to some whites at our games. Our bars are still overwhelmingly black (he was still working on that).”
But that was not enough to “fix” the business model and make the franchise a profitable enterprise”:
“And many of our black fans don't have the spendable income which explains why our f&b and merchandise sales are so low. At all white thrasher (the hockey team) games sales were nearly triple what they are at hawks games (the extra intermission explains some of that but not all)…Regardless of what time a game starts, we have the latest arriving crowd in the league. It often looks and sounds empty when the team takes the floor.” People want to watch the game in the get the hell out, I suppose.
Then a light bulb popped-up in his dim-bulb mind:
“In the past two years, we have created a section of rowdy college students that has been a big plus.” Doing what—heckling the home team players? “And we do a lot of very clever stuff during time outs to entertain the crowd. Our kiss cam is better done than any in the league.” What could Levenson be referring to? Shaming those reticent white women to give their men some of what they haven’t been putting out lately?
Whatever. Perhaps the real problem is that the Hawks have been a mostly mediocre team with no real "star" player to move merchandise, and have for some time now. Many have criticized ownership for not spending the money to put a competitive team on the floor. Or Levenson could be right about everything; after all, I think the reason why Seattle let the Sonics go so easily was because the white fan base saw the team as too "black." Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the NBA these days; NCAA basketball is much more interesting and less predictable.