On the “Amos & Andy” radio program, businessman Andy Brown inadvertently installed his office intercom backward. That meant that any time he wanted to speak to his secretary, the lovely Miss Genevieve Blue, he had to get up from his desk, walk to the door and yell “Buzz me, Miss Blue.”
That became a popular catchphrase during the 1940s.
Guess what? It was probably popular in the office of Atlanta Hawks basketball team owner Bruce Levenson in recent months, like right after the L.A. Clippers were purchased for $2 billion.
Levenson: Buzz me, Miss Blue ... Where is that insensitive, borderline bigoted email I wrote two years ago talking about black people on the Kiss Cam?
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After the Clippers, a team valued by Forbes at $430 million, sold for more than four times that in a league-forced sale after it came out that its owner was a bigot, is it inconceivable that intercoms throughout the NBA are buzzing as some owners see a chance to acquire a bit of infamy in exchange for a lot of moolah?
No. Levenson dropped a dime on himself to the league for an email he wrote two years ago in which he lamented, among other things, the number of black people being shown on the Philips Arena Kiss Cam during games.
Does he think smooching brothers and sisters will offend Southern sensibilities and keep people from attending Hawks games?
Hawkwash. You know what keeps people from attending Hawks games?
They stink. No, worse: The team epitomizes mediocrity. I’m guessing fans would be more inclined to pay to see a truly dreadful team – if only to marvel at just how bad it is – than to see one that is merely average.
Since the 2008-09 season, the Hawks’ regular-season record is 266-134. Those are not “must-see” numbers – especially not when Atlantans can instead go over to The Varsity and see how many chili cheese dogs they can eat before losing consciousness. (The answer is 17.)
I lived in Atlanta, writing the most riveting obituaries imaginable for the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, B.B. and A.B. – Before Bird and After Bird. When the Boston Celtics played the Hawks the season before Larry Bird arrived, there were fewer than 6,000 fans in The Omni.
The next year when the Celtics came, the place was sold out. What happened? Bird was white, he was a transcendent talent – and the Hawks were a better team than they’d been the previous year.
Fans want to see winners, regardless of race, and if an owner builds a winning team, they will come.
The hero thus far in this brouhawkhawk is team co-owner Michael Gearon Jr., who heard what General Manager Danny Ferry said recently and immediately told Levenson it was unacceptable. Whoever wrote the rancid scouting report on free agent player Luol Deng – “He’s got a little African in him” along with disparaging comments – must have felt comfortable having it presented via conference call to a dozen white team executives.
Ferry, like Deng a Duke alumnus, must’ve felt comfortable reading it. Hey, we’re all in this together , right?
Gearon, though, let it be known that they weren’t all in it together. Neither should any of us be.
Rage against racism
Racist thoughts are never going to disappear.
What can disappear, though, is the open expression of them simply because people think they’re among like-minded brethren who’ll silently accept their putrid propositions.
Each of us should do as Gearon did – rage against that sort of crap whether we’re at a backyard barbecue or in an office suite full of only blacks, only whites, only Samoans.
Speaking of which: since Donald Sterling of the Clippers and Levenson have already insulted one group for fun and potential profit, other owners seeking to similarly enrich themselves by being forced to sell their teams must find others to insult.
“Miss Blue, didn’t I say something bad about Samoans once?”