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Carmelo Anthony blasts Hawks, says free agents will look elsewhere

Carmelo Anthony looks on during a game against

Carmelo Anthony looks on during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 14, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Carmelo Anthony isn't holding back his feelings about the Atlanta Hawks one bit.

The Hawks released an open letter of apology to fans and the city of Atlanta yesterday, saying the organization "did not do the right thing" to correct racially inflammatory words and innuendos "over a period of years."

The Knicks star blasted the franchise Saturday and said he believes this situation will make the Hawks far less attractive to prospective free agents.

"Ain't nobody would want to go there," Anthony told reporters at the Citi Carmelo Anthony Basketball ProCamp at Baruch College in Manhattan.

The Hawks' apology, signed by CEO Steve Koonin, was released a day after the team announced that general manager Danny Ferry is taking an indefinite leave of absence after his racially charged comments about Luol Deng.

The Hawks announced last Sunday that majority owner Bruce Levenson is selling his controlling interest in the team after an internal investigation turned up a racially charged email he sent to team executives in 2012. Levenson told team officials that they should gear their marketing less toward African-Americans and more toward whites because he believed that white Atlanta fans would not be comfortable in an arena or bar area "where they were in the minority."

The investigation was commissioned when Ferry said on a conference call with owners in June that free-agent target Deng has "got some African in him."

"He's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back," Ferry said on the call. Both Ferry and Koonin have said that Ferry was merely repeating statements made by others in scouting reports on Deng.

"I think it was uncalled for," Anthony said of the remarks. "From an owner, from a GM, those are not things you play with. As a player, as an athlete, we're looking for a job, we're trying to find a place where we can move our family, [where] we can make our family comfortable, where we can be comfortable in a comfortable environment. But those comments right there, we would never look at [the franchise]. I'm speaking on behalf of all athletes. We would never look at a situation like that. I don't care what it is."

Anthony, who re-signed with the Knicks during the summer after testing the free-agent waters, said it doesn't matter that Levenson is selling his stake in the team and Ferry has stepped away for the time being. The damage already has been done.

"That's not going to change overnight," he said. "I don't think that just happened overnight. That's been an accumulation over the past couple years. A lot of people think that it just happened, but it's been going on for the past two or three years now."

In the Hawks' letter of apology, Koonin said, "We are very sorry. Over the course of the last week, the Hawks have let down our players, our employees, our fans and the city we love. Our shortcomings have been broadly shared -- including how we have failed to operate well internally and externally. It has been humbling and, while we have read, seen and come to know many things about ourselves, our learnings have just begun."

This is the second incident with racial overtones related to NBA owners in the last five months. In April, TMZ leaked disparaging comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling about African-Americans. The NBA forced Sterling to sell the team, which was purchased by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during the summer.

Could this be some type of pattern? Anthony thinks it could be.

"We have to stop that," he said. "This is not the league for that. As players coming in, we want to play and make a good career out of everything. And from Sterling to this situation, [it's] just pushing everything back."

Anthony was at Baruch on Saturday for his annual youth camp. The Brooklyn native usually is not one to get on a soapbox and opine about league issues, but the situation in Atlanta has made a major impact on him and likely hundreds of other players in the NBA.

Atlanta has not been a destination for high-profile free agents, and the comments from team executives likely will make it even harder to lure players.

"At the end of the day," Anthony said, " . . . I think it puts Atlanta back even further now, from that standpoint."

With AP

New York Sports