ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have jointly obtained the scouting report that sparked a racial controversy involving the Atlanta Hawks.
This comes on the same day that the Hawks announced that general manager Danny Ferry is taking a leave of absence.
"He's also a good guy overall, but he's not perfect. He's got some African in him, and I don't say that in a bad way," Ferry could be heard saying during a June conference call.
Ferry was describing free agent forward Luol Deng on a call with team owners and executives that shifted team focus off the basketball court and into the court of public opinion.
"Danny Ferry has got to go. It's just that simple," the Rev. Markel Hutchins said earlier in the week.
On Friday afternoon, the Hawks accepted Ferry's request for an indefinite leave of absence. Ferry has maintained the words weren't his own, but rather came from sources involved in player scouting.
Through our sources, Channel 2 Action News got a copy of the Hawks official scouting report on Deng.
The original words in the report said, "He's 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."
On the call you can hear Ferry explain, “He has a storefront out front that's beautiful and great ... but he may be selling some counterfeit stuff behind ya."
The words in the report say, "African-like, store front looks great but there's a black market section in back."
"What's most offensive is the reaction and the lack of a chastising or some sort of rebuttal from the other person that were on the team," Hutchins said about the report.
Turns out, team leaders were sorting out Ferry's leave request at the same time local civil rights leaders showed up at the Hawks executive offices to deliver a letter asking for a meeting.
"We want to make the best out of the situation. We want to make out of this crisis some good come," Hutchins said.
One thing we still don't know is who originally wrote those troubling words. The source has been redacted in the document.
With Ferry taking an indefinite leave of absence the team will turn over basketball operations to head coach Mike Budenholzer who will report directly to CEO Steve Koonin.
In a statement, Ferry said, “No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng … My focus moving forward is to tirelessly work to rebuild trust with this community and with our fans. I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me."
The Hawks also announced they are going to hire a chief diversity officer and will continue to meet with community leaders.
The process of selling the team, which the Hawks say will remain in Atlanta, is already underway.
The following is the full statement released Friday:
“This afternoon, Danny Ferry requested, and I have approved, taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family and it is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing. As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process.
While the issues related to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of this dispute is an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners. That said, we have taken several steps to address what we can do as an organization to be better and stronger, including working with a diversity consultant to examine us and to train us to ensure something like this never happens again, we are committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, and we have and will continue to meet with community leaders in an ongoing way to ensure our values reflect the community in which we play and work. The process of selling the team, which is to remain in Atlanta, is already underway.
Effective immediately, our Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer, will assume oversight of the basketball operations department. He will report directly to me.
I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that this has put a blemish on our team and our city, which has always been a diverse community with a history of coming together as one. We should build bridges through basketball, not divide our community or serve as a source of pain.”