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Levenson and the Hawks' real problem

By Mo Ivory
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Atlanta Hawks co-owner to sell his interest in team after racially charged email
  • Mo Ivory: The email wasn't shocking and team's problems have nothing to do with race
  • She says the failure to put a winning team on the court is the real problem
  • Ivory: Levenson could reap a financial reward in this sale

Editor's note: Mo Ivory is an attorney and radio personality who lives in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @moivory The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN) -- Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson just figured out how to get rid of a product that no one wants to purchase by throwing himself on the confessional table of bigotry -- which will probably make him more wealthy than he could have ever imagined.

Sure, the publicity isn't flattering, and Levenson's hand may have been forced by the Hawks' internal investigation.

But this is not about racism, this is about business.

What we know

I've lived in Atlanta for close to 20 years -- the Hawks games are boring! I can't name the players. I don't know who they are married to or what they do in the community. They are not a fabric of my interest. I wish they had a star player whose jersey I wanted to buy so I could finally hang my Dominique Wilkins jersey up as memorabilia.

This is not about racism, this is about business.

So, like all other non-Atlanta natives living in Atlanta long term, when the Hawks play the New York Knicks, this native New Yorker whips out her Carmelo Anthony jersey and heads to Phillips Arena. The reason Bruce Levenson could not make the Hawks profitable is not because black people don't buy season tickets, or arrive at games late, or spend all their time at the bar, or black fathers don't bring black sons to the games. It's because the Hawks suck. They have no marquee players and they don't win games! (Yes, they've made the playoffs in the past seven years, but haven't gotten as far as the conference finals.)

Mo Ivory
Mo Ivory

This is not about racism, this is about business.

The few years that the Hawks have made it to the playoffs, you can hardly make it down Centennial Olympic Drive in time for tip-off because the traffic is so thick. Fans, white and black, show up when their hometown team is winning. Period.

This is not about racism, this is about business.

Opinion: Atlanta Hawks owner is a hypocrite

Are there unique factors to every city that accounts for distinctions between fan bases? Sure. New Orleans, Memphis, New York and Boston fans show up -- even when their teams are not having a winning season. Those cities are not as transient as Atlanta. That's something Bruce Levenson fails to realize is unique to Atlanta.

This is not about racism, this is about business.

Bruce Levenson's 2012 email, in which he shared his ideas about why his franchise was not as profitable as he hoped, as unscientific as it was, can hardly be called shocking or rise to the level of racially polarizing. It was another wealthy white man sharing his commonly thought views on the spending habits or lack thereof of black consumers and how that affects white consumers, who white business executives consider the most valued consumer in America.

This is not about racism, this is about business.

I was slightly annoyed with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver commending Mr. Levenson for coming forward and self-reporting. Levenson revealed his email of August 2012 to Silver in July 2014, after the Hawks found it in an internal investigation and precisely the time that investigators for Donald Sterling were looking to expose other NBA owners for any possible racial missteps.

It's no coincidence that an NBA investigation on this Levenson matter was kept secret and remained pending until the Sterling deal became final. Why are we just now hearing about it? Silver knew, yet he didn't reveal it to the public.

Racism has never been as profitable in the NBA as it is right now in the wake of the historic $2 billion sale of the Clippers, the almost doubling of national television deals that are sure to bring record profits to the league, and the identification of interested purchasers lined up and ready to close the deals. Bruce Levenson is a businessman following the business model: Strike while the iron is hot. Buy low. Sell high.

This is not about racism, this is about business.

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