Hawks GM Wes Wilcox Makes Racially Insensitive Joke at Fan Event

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 28:  General Manager Wes Wilcox of the Atlanta Hawks speaks during a Press Conference introducing First Round Draft pick DeAndre Bembry, and Second Round Draft Pick Isaia Cordinier on June 28, 2016 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Atlanta Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox has apologized for making a racially insensitive joke during a team event with fans in December.

Patrick Redford of Deadspin reported Jan. 6 that Hawks season-ticket holder Clarenton Crawford was in attendance and provided details of an exchange with Wilcox. Crawford suggested the team replace head coach Mike Budenholzer with Mark Jackson as part of a series of questions that caused tension to rise before the GM attempted to calm the situation.

"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 said, according to Crawford and another Deadspin source at the event.

Crawford told Deadspin he reached out to the organization to voice his displeasure. He received a meeting with CEO Steve Koonin and senior vice president Nzinga Shaw after asking whether Wilcox would be disciplined. He said Shaw told him in the meeting she was "counseling" the GM.

On Tuesday, Marc Spears of The Undefeated reported Wilcox received an "undisclosed discipline" from the Hawks.

Wilcox released a statement to Deadspin about the matter, chalking the situation up as a failed attempt at a joke to diffuse a tense moment.

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"At an early December chalk talk, I made a self-deprecating comment at my own expense regarding my family, which is multiracial," he said. "This joke offended Mr. Crawford and his wife and for that, I apologize."

It's the third time in the last four years the Hawks organization has been involved in a controversial race-related story.

In 2014, former Hawks owner Bruce Levenson decided to sell his stake in the franchise after telling the NBA he sent a racist email in 2012. The message, sent to then-team president Danny Ferry, suggested white fans were more valuable than black fans.

In 2015, Ferry stepped down following a separate instance where an audio recording was released in which he said forward Luol Deng "has a little African in him." He had been on a 10-month leave of absence before leaving the team.

The NBA also dealt with the high-profile case of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life and fined $2.5 million by the league after TMZ Sports published racist remarks he made in 2014. The team was later sold to Steve Ballmer.