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Luol Deng has released a statement in response to comments made about his heritage by Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry.
During a conference call discussing potential targets, Ferry described Deng as having ‘a little African in him’ in another unsavoury incident for the franchise and the NBA itself following the revelation of a racially insensitive email sent by owner Bruce Levenson, leading to his agreed sale.
The British forward attracted lots of attention when free agency began in July and it was widely reported that the Hawks were one of several teams interested in Deng’s services before he signed for Miami.
And Deng has responded to the news of the comments coming to light, admitting to being ‘saddened and disappointed’ by the incident whilst taking the opportunity to thank his new side for the way they have welcomed him.
Here’s the statement in full:
‘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.”
Deng was born in what is now known as South Sudan before being raised in London at an early age. He recently opened a new academy in his hometown of Brixton.
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