Why the ‘Southern whites’ I know pass on the Hawks

Let this be the last blanket statement made about race in Atlanta: You really shouldn’t make blanket statements about race in Atlanta.

Or anywhere else, probably. But race in Atlanta is back in the headlines, thanks to the careless words of the people who run the Atlanta Hawks.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Hawks. They are the NBA’s model franchise, if you seek a model of unfailing mediocrity. The team has had its highs and lows over the years, but the one thing you can absolutely count on the Hawks to do is revert to the mean.

This is a team that, since moving here from St. Louis in 1968, has never advanced to the conference finals. No Atlanta Hawk has ever won an MVP award; none has finished in the top 10 of the voting since Dominique Wilkins in 1993. The Hawks being the Hawks, they traded him away the very next season, while the team was in first place. They lost in the second round, again.

All of which is to say, Atlantans have never had any reason to love the Hawks the way those who run the team apparently think we should.

By now you’ve probably read about the speculation by the team’s soon-to-be-former majority owner, Bruce Levenson, as to why the Hawks couldn’t draw more fans — specifically, “Southern whites.” Among his theories: too many black cheerleaders, too many black couples on the big-screen “kiss cam,” too much black music.

I’m a “Southern white” myself, and a sports fan to boot. I have been to just one Hawks game in the past five years, which is one more than the number of times I’d pondered the issues Levenson raised. But now that he’s raised them, I have some thoughts.

First, it’s worth noting many of the people around here Levenson derided as racially motivated “Southern whites” are white but not raised in the South. (Maybe he thinks they skip Hawks games for the right reasons?)

Then there are those of us who are Southern and white, but also below a certain age and above a certain income level. There are lots of us, and we should be right in the Hawks’ wheelhouse. We grew up with a diverse group of friends, listened to a wide range of music, had posters of Dominique Wilkins on our walls and Air Jordans on our feet. Now many of us have kids, potential Hawks fans.

We frequently go downtown for sporting events. But it’s almost always baseball or football or college basketball; the Hawks aren’t on the radar. My friends actually make fun of me and another guy just for talking about who the Hawks might sign to become a team worth going to see in person. Or worth watching on TV, for that matter.

Their usual reason? “The Hawks will never be good.” And given the team’s history, it’s hard to argue.

Still, are there some people who think the way Levenson assumed? I can’t believe there aren’t. But are they numerous enough to explain the Hawks’ woeful attendance? I can’t believe they are.

The good thing about a team’s rotten history is that it can be changed, as the Braves and then the Falcons showed. The good thing about Levenson’s revelation is someone will get a chance to prove even the Hawks can do it.

Reader Comments 0

105 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Let’s hope that it will come in the form of Hawks’ superior performance sometime soon.

Wouldn't make any difference to me.

They're still sweaty, have squeaky shoes, and wear silky shorts.

Kyle:

What goes on at your blog is no different than what goes on an any other....WSJ....NPR....CSMonitor....

all have folks who are "passionate"?

JackClemens
JackClemens

@FIGMO2 I'm thankful he's trying something different. I'd love for internet civility to spread and then make it's way into the halls of government. It would be a refreshing change.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Maybe they should move their stadium to Cobb if they want more whites at the games?


Better yet, move it to Alpharetta.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

How do you get "listening" status? Just by having the page open in a browser?

JackClemens
JackClemens

My hope is that the only ownership change is someone buying Levenson's shares and still have the rest of the current ownership group. The team needs a Steve Ballmer type to own the whole thing. Maybe then, things can improve. (Yes, I know the team didn't set the world on fire under billionaire Ted Turner, but they were more entertaining then)

JackClemens
JackClemens

is NOT someone buying Levenson's shares.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JackClemens I think you can edit your own comments so that you don't have to submit another one. Do you see "edit" next to the end of what you wrote? (Or is that only something I can see? I'm still getting used to the new platform myself.)

JackClemens
JackClemens

@Kyle_Wingfield @JackClemens All I can see is delete and share. I should have deleted and reposted a corrected version. Some AJC blogs using this system have an (edit in 5 minutes) that appears after the comment. Some don't.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JackClemens You're supposed to be able to do that. I asked and someone is going to look into it.

MarkVV
MarkVV

With any issue with racial overtones – or even more blatant racial content – there are plenty of comments (generally, not necessarily on this blog) that can hardly be called both sincere and reasoned.

On one side one can usually find those who just refuse to admit the still strong presence of racism in this country. On the other side, a tendency to call racism anything that targets a particular race community, whether true or not.


In many cases, one might argue that the problem is not true racism – a presumption of race superiority – but race intolerance. That is what Bruce Levenson apparently talked about to explain the poor Hawks attendance. It is interesting perhaps that he did not try to explain his remarks as a rebuke to this intolerance, thus virtually confirming the appropriateness of the accusations against him.


It would be interesting to get a confirmation of the claim that the main reason for the poor attendance is the Hawks’ record. Let’s hope that it will come in the form of Hawks’ superior performance sometime soon.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"The good thing about a team’s rotten history is that it can be changed, as the Braves and then the Falcons showed. The good thing about Levenson’s revelation is someone will get a chance to prove even the Hawks can do it."


Perhaps, but will they prove it in ATLANTA? With this ownership group at the helm, how can we be sure?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DawgDadII I read a comment somewhere that the NBA would be highly unlikely to let ownership abandon a) the nation's 9th (or is it 8th?) largest TV market; b) the largest city in the Southeast; and c) the home of Turner, which has a $1B contract to broadcast NBA games. I don't think this is the team that will end up in Seattle.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

One more reason, I don't watch or attend basketball games.

Men in silky shorts are a huge turn-off. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

BTW Kyle agree 100 percent with the new rules.


I am as guilty as anyone maybe even more so of breaking them.


Hopefully as you said this leads to more thoughtful discussion all the way around. 


Mostly what is discussed here is Politics and that gets peoples emotions going. 


But that is no excuse for not remaining civil


Again i'm probably the biggest offender.

zekeI
zekeI

Lived in the Atlanta metro area for10 or 11 years in the 80's and 90's. Went to a couple of Hawks games, but, just to be at a Celtics game or the Nuggets with Alex English. Went o some Braves games when there were roughly 4000 fans in the stadium, and, to some with a full stadium including the playoff series with the Pirates. Been to the dome for Chic-fil-A and Peach Bowls, and, SEC championship, but, never to a Falcons game.

Pro teams in Atlanta will always suck! Always have, always will! That is just a fact!

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@zekeI I've made this argument before to Northern friends who wonder how a Braves playoff game didn't sell out.


I tell them if UGA was playing a high school team on Christmas Day it would sell out.


Only so many sports dollars to go around and College Football is king in the South.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar @zekeI College sports, especially football, had a ~70-year head start on pro sports in the South. Loyalty matters, and a lot of loyalties here were built up before pro teams arrived -- or in other cities, in the case of the many people who have moved here.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Another reason I don't like basketball is because it's a closed venue and the players sweat profusely.

Not intended as a racial slur. Men sweat and their odor is distinctive.

No offense intended. 

Hawksfanforlife
Hawksfanforlife

If you live in an NBA city and you don't go to games, Kyle, you're just not an NBA fan. But, there's a good chance your kids will be. The NFL is just on the other side of its apex. Basketball's popularity is still on the way up--and football's problems (namely concussions and getting kids to play) and baseball's problems (getting kids interested) certainly won't hurt the NBA. 


I go to Hawks games all the time. And I'll go to more moving forward, because I'm not going to keep spending money to support a baseball team that is abandoning us for Cobb County or a football team that is making us Atlantans pay for its unnecessary new stadium. 

Juanx
Juanx

Absent in this thread is any mention of leadership. Seems to me the leader of the Hawks isn't talented himself. Seems like the Hawks need the level of managing as the Braves and the Falcons. When these two teams play the Marta Station at Indian Creek is overflowing with all stripes of people wearing their teams colors with smiling faces.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Grew up a huge Hawks fan. They actually had some decent teams in the 80's. Sad to see what they have become.


Still amazes me that Atlanta cant have a successful NBA franchise. Would seem a great fit with the affluent African American community in Atlanta.



JackClemens
JackClemens

@HeadleyLamar It is puzzling the enduring mediocrity. Perhaps even more astonishing to me is how the team has at least been a winner in recent years with the poor ownership group, poor coaching (mostly Woodson) and poor drafts (mostly under Knight).

Salt-n-Light
Salt-n-Light

My son plays HS Basketball and loves the game so I took my him to the 6th game of the playoffs this year when the Hawks played the Pacers. They choked and lost. We had a great time but I would be inclined to go again if they had won. Didn't worry about where the game was or the color of the players. It  was all about the performance.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

testing new blog: 


Hope these are updated on the homepage. 


Oh, about the Hawks.  I may have gone to a game years ago, in a company owned box seat. (Thrashers too!).  

Owner lockouts and player strikes have played a hand in the NBA struggling for its audience.  


With limited funds, I'm like many others.  Of entertainment and sports options, the Hawks are just way down on the list. (as are the Falcons.)

Now, if they put together a great team of players without huge egos, and a good coach to bring out their talent, then maybe I'll reconsider where the funds go. 


I'm not sure if the game environment feels racist or not.  It didn't to me the last time I went. But, I went to enjoy the game, not look out for why so many seats were empty or if there were any whites vs blacks groups in the audience. (because hey, they're all Hawks fans, so that brings everyone together - unless you're a fan of the Knicks or Lakers)

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

With this new format it will be harder for you Cons to spread your lies and misinformation unchallenged.

I like it!

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Well, Kareem Abdul Jabbar says Levenson's e-mail wasn't racist.

Obviously there were some folks who saw, within Levenson's e-mail, a preference for whites over blacks. Those same folks resented his comment about a lack of affluent blacks to boost ticket sales.

Funny how folks see things differently.

Perhaps our government should stop categorizing us by race. That way we could use our soapboxes to oversee them (the government) rather than seeing over one another.

@MHSmith Repeal vs Improve?

A seaworthy boat cannot be constructed in the surf. 


Captain–Obvious
Captain–Obvious

Your chutzpah is truly unbelievable! How do you square "Perhaps our government should stop categorizing us by race" with your previous statement that, and I quote you directly "The fact is that blacks need affirmative action else they'll never catch up to whites. schnirt"?

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Leaning_Right If you wanna believe that African Americans can't make it on their own, so be it. I know too many who have. 

Racist!

schnirt


FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Leaning_Right And just so you know, T-Roll. I won't be wasting a lot of my time down here under your bridge.

SCHNIRT!

MHSmith
MHSmith

@FIGMO2 @MHSmith The Republicans lost all "seaworthiness" (as you say) years ago on the healthcare issue and now the numbers say they shall not repeal Obamacare. 


They might get the medical device tax removed but removing the mandates on insurance companies, NOT HAPPENING and these Laissez-faire Republitarians  better figure out how they are going to avoid seriously not obstinately deal with the debt-deficit that is being driven by their not having an "acceptable financial solution" that pleases the majority of Americans. 

National deficit $17 trillion and climbing by the second. Yeah, deficit spending has really gone down in the "REAL WORLD".



FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Leaning_Right @FIGMO2 I never made such a statement, T-Roll. You must have me confused with one of your liberal friends.

I could just call you a liar but I'm above that silly nonsense. Your "mistakes:, however, are too many to mention AND are intentional.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@MHSmith @FIGMO2  ...an "acceptable financial solution" that pleases the majority of Americans?

Politics is all about timing. If they have a plan, they'll reveal it at the appropriate time. That time will be when it best serves their purpose.

And, Michael?

I'm not so sure that we haven't reached the point of no return on the debt-deficit thing. Too long in the making, too long in the ignoring.

I'm out for awhile.



Don't Tread
Don't Tread

I refuse to support anyone who believes they are above the law because they play a televised game and make lots of money doing it.


Therefore I don't watch Hawks games...or the NFL.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Are y'all stowing him away until after the elections?

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Well, one of my questions has been answered, over at kookman's, right next to the "XX people listening" thingamajiggy, is amjacky's avatar, checked in but silent. 


How truly strange.


MHSmith
MHSmith

When it comes to repeal versus improve, 63 percent wish to see Congress work to improve the law compared to 33 percent who want to see it vanish from American socioeconomic life. Almost every Democrat polled favors improvement over repeal 89/9, with independents strongly backing the same policy route 59/38. Republicans overwhelming favor repeal 61/35.

While Obamacare has been a huge source of material for attack ads, these figures also could show that Obamacare has a limited impact with voters, hence why a lot of GOP campaigns are starting to talk about other issues.


IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine


Islamists Are Not Our Friends

By DENNIS B. ROSS, new yorkkk times

You can't get anything by these fascists^^.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Republicans are putting together an agenda for the first 100 days of 2015 in case they win control of the Senate.

Authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, approving “fast-track” trade authority, wiping out proposed environmental regulations and repealing the medical device tax top their list.

.

.

 Keystone XL pipeline and repealing the medical device tax might happen. Biggest mistake would be approving “fast-track” trade authority.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

When I first entered this thread I was more interested in navigating the new format than Kyle's column. Now that I've read the column, I can say...

nice smackdown, Kyle.

Levenson's shifting the blame.

Reminds me of our president.

schnirt! 

MHSmith
MHSmith

Cheer up Kyle, between the Hawks and MARTA you got Atlanta's very own "biggest loser" contest live and up close. 


The Hawks might win this one.

sp60
sp60

I hate to say it but Levenson is right. The Hawks have always marketed themselves exclusively towards African Americans, and more specifically towards the hip-hop culture. 


White (or any non-black) families and groups are made to feel as unwelcome as a bunch of hood rats would be at Augusta for the Nationals. 


The Braves and the Falcons do a decent job of not pandering to any particular ethnicity of their fans. It's fun going to those games no matter who you are and how the team does. 


This is a case of perception becomes reality. The Hawks are specifically marketing to black, inner-city groups, and it's not hard for other groups to pick up on the fact and realize they are not welcome. 


This isn't just a problem for the Hawks. The NBA as a whole had embraced the 'thug life' mentality for years, They are starting to get away from this now, with a re-emphasis on the rules and less flashy-but-illegal gameplay, but it's still there in the background. 


A lot of franchises work hard to be minimize this, go to games in Seattle or Boston or NY and you will see a widely diverse set of fans. These franchise work hard to make the game about sports, not race. 


The Hawks still pander to that stereotype though. So long as they do they will be completely unable to draw a diverse audience. 


The_Centrist
The_Centrist

@sp60 - All Levenson and Ferry should have said was that the hawks cheerleaders and targeted audience needed was more "diversity".

Dismuke
Dismuke

@The_Centrist @sp60 The implication being that White men don't find Black women attractive?  Strom Thurmond sure didn't feel that way.


LHardingDawg
LHardingDawg

I predict that after major league soccer comes to Atlanta, the soccer team will draw better than the Hawks in the first year.