In another day or two, Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson’s self-reported email about his franchise’s inability to attract enough white fans to fill empty seats will be eclipsed by security footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his fiancee in an elevator.
For imitating a southpaw boxer without a license, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the star running back for two games. Meanwhile, the woman on the business end of Mr. Rice’s enormous fist married him a few months later, proving the old adage that true love tends to forget (until the next time).
Mr. Goodell has already copped to maybe, possibly, going a little too easy on Mr. Rice by imposing such a ridiculously light sentence. He has since increased the league punishment for domestic abuse. Everyone from the boys in the front office to the millionaire players to the support personnel are now subject to tough new sanctions.
NFL officials swore they’d never seen the new Ray Rice footage until this week, which makes total sense. Who would expect a multi-billion dollar, tax-exempt sports and marketing cartel to have the resources of, say, Internet gossip site TMZ, which obtained the footage taken inside the elevator where the assault took place?
Here’s another question for you Monday morning quarterbacks: Why should it have occurred to Mr. Goodell’s handpicked investigators to ask hotel management for copies of security footage showing what happened inside and outside the elevator that day? You’d have to be Adrian Monk or Lt. Columbo to pursue such an obvious line of inquiry under pressure, especially in the unlikely event the hotel claimed it didn’t exist.
Compared to the morally incoherent NFL, the NBA has become a bastion of relative enlightenment in the post-Donald Sterling era. Mr. Levenson “self-reported” an email he wrote two years ago to Atlanta Hawks President Danny Ferry theorizing about the lack of corporate support and absence of white male faces at home games.
In the email, Mr. Levenson admits to being stumped and doesn’t appear to have any actual data on which to base his theories, but is nonetheless convinced “the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”
Mr. Levenson suggested playing “music familiar to a 40 year old white guy” instead of gospel and rap music favored by the crowds filling the cheap seats. He complained that the “kiss cams” had become “too black,” as had the cheerleading squad.
In other words, Mr. Levenson’s email is an exercise in cluelessness at the highest level. He seems genuinely unaware that white youths are corporate rap’s biggest consumers. They’re not the disgruntled customers of his imagination, gritting their teeth through an alien musical ritual until the arena DJ cues up “Hotel California” or “Stairway to Heaven.”
It never occurs to him that being as out of touch as he is bodes ill for his team. After all, other franchises are making big profits with the same cultural ingredients he sees as a disadvantage.
I’m not inclined to call his email “racist” with a capital “R,” though it is clearly another example of America’s willful ignorance about those it considers outside the “norm” -- non-whites. Mr. Levenson struggled with the dual goal of making money and being on good terms with his black talent and arena clientele.
Cashing out his share in the Hawks is the most honorable thing he can do given the depth of his lack of rapport and cultural bewilderment.