The Atlanta Hawks are embroiled in another racially charged scandal involving a member of the team’s front office. According to a post from Patrick Redford of Deadspin, Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox made an inappropriate joke during a “Chalk Talk” event on Dec. 7.
Wilcox was addressing a crowd of approximately 200 season ticket holders when he reportedly attempted to make light of a situation involving fans and their objections to the franchise’s basketball-related dealings. Among other criticisms from the room, a fan named Clarenton Crawford expressed his discontent with head coach and president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer’s recent coaching decisions. Wilcox responded with this attempt at humor:
“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.”
This comment did not go over well.
Wilcox has since issued an apology, via Deadspin, and it reads as follows:
“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.”
The report above provides full context, but Crawford also reportedly engaged in an e-mail conversation with Hawks CEO Steve Koonin concerning the incident. This correspondence included a reference that Wilcox “turned to the other white gentleman with him and asked if what he said was okay.” Koonin replied to Crawford with a basketball-driven focus, but offered no apology or action against Wilcox for the remark.
From there, the Deadspin report indicates that Koonin and Crawford eventually set up a face-to-face meeting on Jan. 3 that also involved Nzinga Shaw, who was hired as the NBA’s first diversity officer in the wake of the Danny Ferry scandal. Per the report, Shaw indicated that Wilcox was being counseled by her as a result of the incident.
At this point, there is no official statement from the Hawks beyond the aforementioned statement from Wilcox to Deadspin.
Still, this should be treated as a developing story and a serious matter, particularly given the organization’s very recent past.