ATLANTA, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry is on indefinite leave from the NBA in the wake of allegations of racism in a phone conversation he had about player Luol Deng, a team official said Friday.
The allegations came in the form of a letter by Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr., who said he heard Ferry make racist comments during a phone conference while discussing Deng, a free agent who ultimately signed with the Miami Heat.
Ferry allegedly said Deng "has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he's like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back."
The GM issued a statement Tuesday defending his statements.
"In regards to the insensitive remarks that were used during our due diligence process, I was repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources during background conversations and scouting about different players. I repeated those comments during a telephone conversation reviewing the draft and free agency process. Those words do not reflect my views, or words that I would use to describe an individual and I certainly regret it. I apologize to those I offended and to Luol, who I reached out to Monday morning," he said.
Though he defended himself earlier in the week, Ferry asked to take an indefinite leave of absence, the Hawks' chief executive, Steve Koonin said.
"It is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing," Koonin said. "As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process."
Ferry issued another statement Friday apologizing again to Deng.
"These were not my words," but "I deeply regret repeating them."
The Ferry incident comes on the heels of another issue of racism within the organization involving former co-owner Bruce Levenson. Levenson sold his controlling interest in the team after revealing he wrote a racially insensitive email two years ago.