Hawks discipline GM Wes Wilcox for making a racially insensitive joke
Atlanta did not reveal what the punishment will be for its GM
The Atlanta Hawks have disciplined general manager Wes Wilcox for making a joke about black women at a season-ticket holder event, via The Undefeated's Marc Spears. Last Friday, Deadspin's Patrick Redford reported that, when facing critical questions from fans at the event in December, he made the following joke to "diffuse the tension," according to two sources who were in the room:
"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."
Clarenton Crawford, a season-ticket holder who had asked one of the questions, emailed Hawks CEO Steve Koonin with his concerns about the team and Wilcox's joke, and Deadspin published their back-and-forth. Crawford also had a meeting with Koonin and Nzinga Shaw, the Hawks' diversity and inclusion officer, in which Koonin reportedly "apologized on Wilcox's behalf." Wilcox released this quote 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."
According to The Undefeated, Atlanta conducted an internal investigation on the matter and disputed the exact words that were used by Wilcox, but still characterized the joke as an "off-color statement" and deemed it worthy of some kind of punishment:
A Hawks internal investigation from Dec. 27 to Jan. 9 that included interviews with attendees concluded that Wilcox didn't use the words "angry and argumentative," but the mention of race merited his being reprimanded internally by the franchise.
"After hearing multiple sides of the story and getting multiple eyewitness accounts of what took place, I am not convinced that what we heard and read in Deadspin is a direct quote that was used," Nzinga Shaw, Hawks and Philips Arena chief diversity and inclusion officer, told The Undefeated on Tuesday. "Wes, however, certainly did make his off-color statement, which included elements of describing his wife's race. People that were in the room could make the assumption that he was using her race for the reason of the comments that followed. We certainly do not approve of this behavior and we are going to handle this manner internally."
Shaw said the Hawks have no plans to fire Wilcox, but an undisclosed internal discipline was levied after the investigation concluded Jan. 9. She added that the NBA left it entirely up to the team to levy any discipline. The NBA had previously told The Undefeated's Mike Wise that it had no plans of reprimanding Wilcox.
Shaw joined the Hawks organization in December 2014, following scandals involving former general manager Danny Ferry and former owner Bruce Levenson. She is the NBA's first diversity officer. She told The Undefeated, "We don't take matters like this lightly."
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