A few months back, Mavs owner Mark Cuban was a less than enthusiastic supporter of Donald Sterling’s banishment, warning that if NBA owners were held accountable for non-public statements, well, who knows what kind of dirt would come up? After the not-quite-voluntary release of Bruce Levenson’s 2012 email suggesting the atmosphere at Atlanta’s Phillips Arena was scaring away middle-aged white fans, Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski details (partially, anyway) what led up to a determined effort to stage manage an embarrassing story.
Through the league’s back-channel gossip circles, this was known: An NBA owner is in deep trouble, and as one high-ranking official told Yahoo Sports on Friday, “I’m told it’s Sterling-esque in nature.”
Fear spread rapidly, because without knowledge of Levenson’s identity, more than one owner wondered: “Do they have something on me?” Other high-ranking officials in organizations wondered, “Do you know if it’s my guy?” Until the NBA issued a statement – deftly buried within hours of the NFL season’s start on Sunday – the league was littered with guilty consciences bracing for the worst.
The NBA and Levenson say he self-reported the email, but a high-ranking league official with direct knowledge of the probe told Yahoo Sports on Sunday that wasn’t completely accurate, that the email had come back to haunt the owner within his organization.
“Semantics,” the source called the NBA’s insistence of a self-reporting scenario.
Silver is no liar, but he’s a gifted lawyer and carefully scripted an apology and framed Levenson’s ouster to make easier the decision to sell his majority share of the Hawks.