ATLANTA — Under fire for making racially charged comments about a player, Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence Friday.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has resisted calls for Ferry to be dismissed, but said the GM asked for the leave.
"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," Koonin said. "As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process."
Ferry made inflammatory comments about Luol Deng during a conference call with the Hawks' ownership group in June as he team was pursuing the free agent. The GM described Deng as someone who "has a little African in him."
Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan, now plays for the Miami Heat. He responded to Ferry's comment by saying, "I'm proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just 'a little.'"
Former NBA great Magic Johnson is among those who have called on Ferry to step down.
An internal investigation into Ferry's comments uncovered an unrelated email sent two years ago by the team's controlling owner, Bruce Levenson, who theorized that black fans were keeping suburban white fans from attending games.
Levenson said he was embarrassed by what he called an ill-advised attempt to improve the team's attendance and that he intends to sale his share of the team.