Luol Deng says he forgives Danny Ferry, doesn't think he's a racist

MIAMI -- Miami Heat forward Luol Deng met with the media on Friday and, predictably, most of the questions were about Danny Ferry and the Atlanta Hawks. Deng had commented on the remarks read by the Hawks general manager on a conference call in a statement earlier this month, but this was the first time he answered questions about it.

When the initial reports about Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson came out and his admission statement about a racist email he sent, Deng didn't think anything about his possible involvement. As the Hawks situation was exposed more and more with reports of Ferry making offensive comments about African culture in a conference call, Deng's phone was starting to get active with phone calls, text messages, and emails. Instead of reacting to something so hurtful and offensive, he wanted to sit back and see how the story and situation were developing.

After talking with Ferry, he doesn't believe the Hawks' general manager who took a leave of absence is racist and Deng would love to make this a positive learning experience for everybody to benefit from.

"I really think one of the hardest things to do as a human being – and something we should do more often – is to forgive," Deng said at the Heat's media day. "I do forgive Danny. It’s not something that I want to hold onto for the rest of my career and the rest of my life. I had the chance to speak to Danny and I really believe he’s sorry for what he said.

And whether it came from him or wherever it came from, the main focus really should be how we move on forward. What are we going to do about it? Instead of just pointing fingers and trying to go after each other and be mad at each other, I think everything happens for a reason and we could turn this situation of something so negative and something bad that words that were used to describe me and describe where I came from and really turn it into something positive."

The Hawks and Ferry weren't just a random organization that had something offensive said about a player on a different team during a conference call. During Deng's free agency process, he considered the Hawks as a possible destination and wonders if he had signed with them, would the comments have ever come out?

"Atlanta was one of the teams that I really wanted," Deng admitted. "If I was with them, maybe it wouldn’t have come out. You don’t know."

Instead, Deng signed with the Heat on a two-year deal worth nearly $20 million. He'll be the "replacement" for LeBron James at the traditional small forward position in the Heat's lineup. But as has been the standard during Deng's 10-year career, his work will go beyond the court and what he does for the Heat. He wants to make sure this situation with Ferry and those comments have a bigger impact than just this upsetting moment.

"Obviously you have to be upset," Deng said. "The word 'anger,' I don’t know how often I would be angry at words. Those are just words. I’m upset those were used to just describe myself or describe where I came from. With everything that I’ve done, like I said in my statement, I wish it was just about basketball. There was no need for it. It’s how I deal with it, how we’re going to deal with it, and turn it into something positive.

Like I said in my statement, we can’t look at everybody or look at that statement and think this is how everybody is. Whoever used those words, you know Danny, if he could take the time back, then we would have never known this stuff was going on. Now we have a chance to put an end to it and just make sure things like this don’t happen again. We can really educate people.”

In Deng's statement in response to the remarks, he talked about the sense of pride his African culture gives him, and believes it defines him in a positive way. The next step is figuring out how to turn this into a positive. Deng isn't quite sure what can be done, but would like to figure out how to work with Ferry and an organization to help educate people based on this incident. 

"Just one day so we can look back and say, ‘This happened and it was something negative but look how they turned it around and how it became something positive,’" Deng explained. "I’m really not the type of person that’s going to hold on and be angry at someone and be angry at Danny. I don’t think Danny’s racist. I really don’t know Danny to describe him as a person. I just know who he is. That’s just what I believe in and I’d like to put it behind me and move forward. But I would really love if we could do something positive out of it.”

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