The law firm that investigated former Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry said it found no evidence that his comments on a conference call about NBA forward Luol Deng were "motivated by racial, ethnic, or country of origination bias or animus," and that Ferry repeated comments that were not his own, according to documents obtained by ESPN.
On the call, which occurred June 6, 2014, Ferry characterized Deng as a player who "has a little African in him," and added, "He's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back." Ferry has maintained he was reading from a scouting report prepared by a third party.
The incident prompted the Hawks to conduct an internal investigation by Atlanta-based law firm Alston & Bird, led by partner Bernard Taylor. In a letter to Ferry dated June 19, Taylor wrote that he believed the team provided access to all of Ferry's work emails, in addition to 24,000 documents. Taylor said the firm also performed 19 witness interviews.
"We reported the results of our work to the Hawks," Taylor wrote. "In summary, the facts indicated that you repeated comments that were not your own about Mr. Deng from a scouting report during the call, and there was no evidence to indicate that during the call you acted in a manner motivated by negative bias toward Mr. Deng."
A settlement to buy Ferry out of the remaining three years of his contract and a formalization of his departure was approved by the Hawks' board of managers Friday, with the Atlanta-based limited partners dissenting. The letter from Taylor was written as a condition of the settlement. Ferry had requested a statement to that effect in September.
An overview of Alston & Bird's findings was reported to Atlanta's ownership Sept. 10, although the firm didn't produce a written report. Ferry remained on an indefinite leave of absence following Taylor's findings.