Regarding game ops, I need to start with some background. for the first couple of years we owned the team, I didn't much focus on game ops. then one day a light bulb went off. When digging into why our season ticket base is so small, I was told it is because we can't get 35-55 [-year-old] white males and corporations to buy season tixs and they are the primary demo[graphic] for season tickets around the league. When I pushed further, folks generally shrugged their shoulders. then I start looking around our arena during games and notice the following:
-- it's 70 pct black
-- the cheerleaders are black
-- the music is hip hop
-- at the bars it's 90 pct black
-- there are few fathers and sons at the games
-- we are doing after game concerts to attract more fans and the concerts are either hip hop or gospel.
Then I start looking around at other arenas. It is completely different. Even DC with its affluent black community never has more than 15 pct black audience.
Before we bought the Hawks and for those couple years immediately after in an effort to make the arena look full (at the NBA's urging) thousands and thousands of tickets were being giving away, predominantly in the black community, adding to the overwhelming black audience.
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. Please dont get me wrong. There was nothing threatening going on in the arena back then. I never felt uncomfortable, but I think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority. On fan sites I would read comments about how dangerous it is around Philips yet in our 9 years, I don't know of a mugging or even a pick pocket incident. This was just racist garbage. When I hear some people saying the arena is in the wrong place I think it is code for there are too many blacks at the games.
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.
Gradually things have changed. My unscientific guess is that our crowd is 40 pct black now, still four to five times all other teams. And my further guess is that 40 pct still feels like 70 pet to some whites at our games. Our bars are still overwhelmingly black.
This is obviously a sensitive topic, but sadly I think it is far and way the number one reason our season ticket base is so low.
And many of our black fans don't have the spendable income which explains why our f&b and merchandise sales are so low. At all white Thrasher games sales were nearly triple what they are at hawks games (the extra intermission explains some of that but not all).
This strikes me as an exceedingly innocuous email. All of this is just stuff that takes place in every marketing department of every large corporation across the country. Advertisers have always targeted specific demographics, including every ethnic group and every age bracket.
Nowhere in this email did Levenson express any personal antipathy to blacks, or use any ethnic slurs, or even mention verifiable-but-still-controversial facts like IQ differences or crime rates. It was all just Marketing 101.
Levenson mentions the ticket giveaway in the black community, and even dismisses any talk of the area surrounding the arena being dangerous as "racist garbage."
This, of course, hasn't stopped outlets like the New York Times from writing hand-wringing editorials about Levenson being an example of "racism" in the NBA.
Here's the real question: why would a hard-edged businessman like Levenson choose to "out" himself two years after sending this email?
There's been some talk about how he may have been blackmailed, or he might have realized the email was about to be exposed anyway because of the private detectives Donald Sterling had hired to root out other examples of "racism" among NBA owners.
That's certainly possible. But it seems far more likely that Levenson simply wanted, for business reasons, to sell his interest in the Hawks and used this as a convenient excuse. My guess, he's hoping some mogul like Steve Ballmer is willing to give him more than the franchise is currently valued at.