When a team is losing, one of the last places you want to be is a season ticket holder event. Those people are paying good, hard money to watch their team play, and they’re going to want their voice heard.
The Atlanta Hawks, while not being terrible, could be described as middling and a team in transition. Wes Wilcox, the general manager of the Hawks, was present at a “Chalk Talk” event in December where 200 or so season ticket holders were present. Naturally, many voiced their displeasure for how the team is performing and how it is assembled.
One of the team’s season ticket holders, Clarenton Crawford, voiced his displeasure with the coaching and even offered to buy two more seasons worth of tickets if the Hawks fired Mike Budenholzer and hired Mark Jackson. Others chimed in with displeasure about player usage and their need for a veteran point guard.
Wilcox decided to try and diffuse the tension with a joke, one that did not go over well whatsoever:
“I know you guys may be angry with me, but I’m used to it because I have a black wife and three mixed kids, so I’m used to people being angry and argumentative.”
Wilcox released a statement to Deadpsin regarding the comment and had this to say:
“At an early December chalk talk, I made a self-deprecating comment at my own expense regarding my family, which is multi-racial. This joke offended Mr. Crawford and his wife and for that, I apologize.”
Understandably, Crawford was upset with the joke, and he described his reaction and his wife’s reaction as “livid” in an email to Hawks CEO Steve Koonin. The comments were in poor taste, but it only magnifies continued issues with the Hawks, who have gotten in trouble in the past due to insensitive racially-based comments.
In 2014, ex-GM Danny Ferry was on a conference call when he made racial comments about Luol Deng. While investigating, the NBA found that then-owner Bruce Levenson commented in an email that white fans were more valuable than black fans. Ferry ended up being fired and Levenson sold the team shortly thereafter.
The Hawks have attempted to repair their relationship with Crawford, and have met with him in regard to the incident.
After their history with racially charged remarks, the Hawks are on continued thin ice. How Wilcox wasn’t able to pump the brakes on his comment is a question for another day, and the recent incidents with Ferry and Levenson only makes the comments that much more tone deaf.
Is this a systematic issue within the organization itself? I would doubt it, but they need to get a handle on it before their season ticket holders start cancelling out of pure exasperation.