By CHARLES ODUM
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) _ An independent investigation has found former Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry was not motivated by racial bias in making statements which ultimately ended his time with the team.
A letter summarizing the investigation by the Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird was obtained Saturday by The Associated Press, as was a letter from Hawks co-owner Todd Foreman to Ferry.
The Hawks agreed to a buyout of the final two years of Ferry’s contract on Friday. Ferry spent this season on an indefinite leave of absence following his racially derogatory comments about potential free agent Luol Deng.
Alston & Bird partner Bernard Taylor said in the letter, dated Friday, that the review of more than 24,000 documents and 19 interviews provided no evidence of “negative bias toward Mr. Deng, his race or his country of origin.”
Foreman’s letter, also dated Friday, said Ferry was not the cause of the controversy.
“At the heart of this dispute was an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners,” Foreman said.
Foreman thanked Ferry for his “many contributions” in shaping the roster of a team which won a franchise-record 60 games and advanced to its first Eastern Conference final.
Foreman said following the investigation the Hawks “wholeheartedly denounce any accusation or implication that you acted with racial bias while carrying out your duties as Hawks general manager.”
Taylor wrote the evidence confirmed Ferry was repeating statements from a scouting report of Deng during a conference call with the Hawks’ ownership group. In the meeting, Ferry described Deng as someone who “has a little African in him.”
“In summary, the facts indicated you repeated comments that were not your own,” Taylor wrote to Ferry, adding the GM then “strongly” recommended the team attempt to sign Deng.
Deng, who is from South Sudan, signed with the Miami Heat.
With Ferry on the indefinite leave, basketball operations responsibilities shifted to coach Mike Budenholzer and assistant GM Wes Wilcox. With the buyout, Budenholzer and Wilcox could be assigned those duties on a full-time basis.