“Luol Deng signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Miami Heat in July and was tasked with the challenge of helping the franchise remain relevant after losing LeBron James… During a conference call on free agency last June, Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry used an insensitive remark about Deng’s African heritage that resulted in an internal investigation about how the organization handles matters of race. The examination unearthed a two-year old e-mail that contained some racially insensitive comments that eventually forced majority partner Bruce Levenson to announce he is selling his stake in the franchise.” – Washington Post
Danny Ferry’s in his own words: “He’s (Deng) still a young guy overall, he’s a good guy overall. But he’s not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way.”
Luol Deng responds to Danny Ferry derogatory comment: “HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM”
“HE HAS A LITTLE AFRICAN IN HIM”
These words were recently used to describe me. It would ordinarily make any African parent proud to hear their child recognized for their heritage.
I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just “a little”. For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage.
Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.
Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.
However, there is comfort in knowing that there are people who aren’t comfortable with it and have the courage to speak up. In the same way a generalization should not define a group of people, the attitude of a few should not define a whole organization or league.
Ultimately, I’m thankful to be with an organization that appreciates me for who I am and has gone out of its way to make me feel welcome.