ATL

A lot of things went right for the Atlanta Hawks yesterday.

The arena was sold out for their second playoff game against the Brooklyn Nets, their “Swipe Right” Tinder Night a few months back proved successful as a couple who met that night returned for the game, and hometown rapper Ludacris assisted with the player introductions while also performing at halftime with JD (Jermaine Dupri).

Yet the news that the team announced at halftime was the biggest takeaway from the game. The Hawks franchise was sold for $850 million to Antony Ressler who leads an ownership group that includes former NBA player and current NBA TV analyst Grant Hill.

Ressler (co-founder of Apollo Global Management and Ares Management) is most recently known for also bidding on the Los Angeles Clippers until former Microsoft Executive Steve Ballmer purchased them for $2 billion. Grant Hill was in a different ownership group that was also looking to buy the Hawks (and Clippers pre-Ballmer) but once Hill’s group regressed in talks he joined Ressler’s. Other members of the ownership group include Jesse Itzler, one of the founders of Marquis Jet subsidiary and Steven Starker, trading firm BTIG co-founder.

This isn’t the first sporting franchise purchase for Ressler either. He is also a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Photo: AP

While a few fans may be partially upset that Dikembe Mutombo vs. Dominique Wilkins for ownership of the team did not occur, they can breathe a sigh of relief now that the current ownership will be gone. Back in September, the Hawks management and ownership made headlines for all the wrong reasons with a few semi-racist remarks.

First, current owner, Bruce Levenson decided to sell the team after he was under investigation of an email he sent in 2012 about having too many black people at the Hawks’ contests.

In some instances he said this was not an issue, but, when it came down to ticket sales and why they were so low he stated that those who were coming to the games were scarring away white people. For the full email you can look here per the Atlanta Journal- Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore.

“I have been open with our executive team about these concerns. I have told them I want some white cheerleaders and while i don’t care what the color of the artist is, i want the music to be music familiar to a 40 year old white guy if that’s our season tixs demo. i have also balked when every fan picked out of crowd to shoot shots in some time out contest is black. I have even bitched that the kiss cam is too black.”

Later in the email he also said,

My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”

Well then. While that was certainly one headline to remember, the Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry was also under fire for comments he made about former Hawk and current Miami Heat forward Luol Deng. Ferry claimed that the words stated were from a scouting report he was reading.

“He’s a good guy on the cover but he’s an African. He has a little two-step in him = says what you like to hear, but behind closed doors he could be killing you. Con isn’t bad, but it’s there. African-like storefront, looks great but there is a black market section in the back.”

Ferry stated that he was only reading what was on the report. Furthermore, Ferry explained what he thought the report was saying. You can listen to the full conversation here.

“He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way, other than he’s a guy that may make side deals behind you, if that makes sense. Like he has a storefront out front that’s beautiful and great, but he is maybe selling some counterfeit stuff behind you.”

Thankfully, these two incidents are in the past and the Hawks have soared since. This season the team has broken franchise records, had four players in the All-Star game in February, locked up the number one seed in the East by having the most wins and Mike Budenholzer won a Coach of The Year award.

Things now a days are certainly looking up for the franchise as it is a sign of good things to come with this new ownership group taking control and fans swiping right in support.

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