Editor's note: Former Atlanta Hawks star and Atlanta native Shareef Abdur-Rahim, now the Sacramento Kings' director of player personnel and general manager for the Development League's Reno Big Horns, wrote an open letter to Yahoo Sports discussing the racially charged comments made by Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson and general manager Danny Ferry.
Atlanta's history is one of struggle, sacrifice and success. Also known as the city "Too Busy To Hate," Atlanta is the home of Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young and the Civil Rights Movement. It is a city that has prospered due to leaders who value diversity, inclusion and civil rights. Some of those leaders include sports icon Hank Aaron, prominent African-American attorneys like Ernest Greer, former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and businessmen such as Herman Russell.
As an Atlanta native, former Atlanta Hawk and African-American, remaining voiceless on the recent statements distributed by Atlanta Hawks management discounts the sacrifices so many have made to provide a voice for injustice. As a child growing up in Atlanta and before hip-hop music was played at the arena or even accepted by the masses in America, the Hawks had an attendance problem. I recall countless games blacked out on TV in the 1980s and early '90s due to low attendance in the arena. Neither African-American cheerleaders nor the African-American community were the cause of low attendance back then and they are not the cause now.
As a former NBA player and now NBA executive, the game created an opportunity for guys like myself and Luol Deng to provide for our families and give back to our communities. It also allowed me to build businesses, stimulate Atlanta's economy and be part of the rich historical legacy of successful entrepreneurs in Atlanta. The notion that Africans are "two-faced liars and cheats" is offensive. I am proud I have a lot of African in me and know such traits do not carry negative attributes.
I personally interacted with both Bruce Levenson and Danny Ferry on multiple occasions; my experiences with both have always been pleasant. However, their comments represent a lack of respect and sensitivity for individuals with different experiences and backgrounds than themselves. I pray both individuals learn from this situation and work to regain the trust of the great people of Atlanta.