NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has leapt to the defence of Bruce Levenson in light of the under-fire Atlanta Hawks owner's admission to sending an email containing several racist remarks.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend, writing on the subject in his editorial for TIME magazine, argued that Levenson's 2012 email which has emerged this week in fact contained some "entirely reasonable" questions regarding the Hawks' fan base.
It emerged Sunday that, following an investigation into the franchise, Bruce Levenson had informed the NBA of an e-mail sent in 2012 in which he made several controversial comments regarding African-Americans and their influence on the Hawks' white fans.
Issues raised included the impact of black fans on the likelihood of white fans to come to games - going as far as to suggest "white fans may be afraid of our black fans."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar however feels that, perhaps in the light of the recent Donald Sterling-LA Clippers race row, the public have been too quick to taint Levenson with a racist brush:
"Levenson is a businessman asking reasonable questions about how to put customers in the seats. In the email, addressed to Hawks president Danny Ferry, Levenson wonders whether...the emphasis on hip-hop and gospel music and the fact that the cheerleaders are black, the bars are filled the bars are filled with 90 percent blacks, kiss cam focus on black fans and time-out contestants are always black has an effect on keeping away white fans. … Seems reasonable to ask those questions,” wrote the NBA's all-time top points scorer.
The Lakers legend then went on to argue that it is part of Levenson's job to wonder how to ensure his business appeals to different groups purely from a financial standpoint.
Kareem also added his own opinion as to why the white community of Atlanta seem to be staying away from Hawks home games, claiming "racism is a realistic possibility as to why whites in Atlanta may not be coming."
"“He wasn't valuing white fans over blacks,” Kareem concluded in his essay. “He was trying to figure out a way to change what he thought was the white perception in Atlanta so he could see more tickets. That's his job.”
What happens now?
While Bruce Levenson may be thankful for the input of one of the NBA's most higlhy respected former pros, Kareem's viewpoint is unlikely to be shared by the vast majority.
That includes NBA commissioner Adam Silver who, in the aftermath of the Levenson email being reported, released a statement of his own confirming that the businessman plans to sell his controlling stake in the franchise.
Silver also went on to add that the views expressed in the email were totally against the core principles of the NBA.