Atlanta Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox says he was trying to diffuse a tense situation with levity when he joked about his black wife in front of a group of season ticketholders last month.
But all he succeeded in doing is casting more doubt on an organization recently tainted by racially insensitive remarks.
According to a report in ProBasketballTalk, Wilcox was taking part in a question and answer session with about 200 season ticket holders Dec. 7 when the group of fans got a little heated with their opinions about the team. When a fan by the name of Clarenton Crawford voiced his disapproval with head coach Mike Budenholzer, and suggested the Hawks hire Mark Jackson instead, Wilcox, who is white, interrupted with the tasteless quip.
“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.”
Crawford, who is black, said he and his wife were offended by the remark, especially considering the organization had just begun distancing itself from similarly racist statements made by former front office members. A 2012 email from Hawks minority owner Bruce Levenson complained about the overwhelmingly black fan base.
Then in 2014, general manager Danny Ferry used questionable language in describing Luol Deng’s African heritage as a possible drawback in offering him a lucrative contract. Levenson sold the team soon after and Ferry resigned.
Crawford was so incensed by Wilcox’s remarks, he emailed Atlanta CEO Steve Koonin on Dec. 16 and explained his displeasure. Wilcox later apologized in a statement to Deadspin.
“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.”
Koonin also reportedly apologized on Wilcox’s behalf.