Racially-charged comments from earlier this year have surfaced from Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry about former Chicago Bull Luol Deng. On Tuesday, Luol Deng fired back.
Deng “has a little African in him,” Ferry reportedly said in June before proceeding to invoke some ugly stereotypes. “Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”
The comments were made during a conference call among Hawks management and ownership in June as the team was pursuing Deng in free agency. They came to light earlier this week.
Luol Deng issued the perfect response: “I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me,” as reported by the Sun-Sentinel. “For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength.”
Deng’s African roots aren’t exactly a secret. Born in what is now known as South Sudan, his family fled during the Second Sudanese Civil War and eventually emigrated to England, where his basketball career began in earnest.
Deng has certainly never shied away from embracing his African roots. He has been a vocal advocate and ambassador for South Sudanese statehood, even winning the 2008 UN Refugee Agency’s Humanitarian of the Year Award. The Luol Deng Foundation uses basketball as a tool to build communities in Africa.
“A part of me never really left home. I’m proud of my family and my homeland. I never forgot where I came from,” Deng said in an anti-violence appeal to South Sudanese posted to YouTube this past April. “You have the power to build peace in our diverse country. Person to person, town to town, neighor to neighbor.”
I'm the only one from S.Sudan on this flight. Independence feels great let's keep on making this world a better place. Peace allows growth.
— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) November 15, 2011
I hope the referendum in Sudan works out peacefully, it will save so many lives.
— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) September 25, 2010
Sad leaving South Sudan today. I enjoyed every minute in our new country. So thankful to all those who sacrificed so much for us.
— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) July 20, 2011
“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.
Stay classy, Luol. Chicago misses you.