Timeline: How the Hawks’ controversy surfaced

The following is a timeline of events, including emails obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, from June 6-18 that led to the current racially-charged controversy that has engulfed the Hawks’ organization.

June 6: The Hawks hold a 4 p.m. conference call with ownership and management to discuss potential free agents. Among those included on the call are controlling owner Bruce Levenson, co-owners Michael Gearon Jr. and Sr., Ed Peskowitz and Todd Foreman, CEO Steve Koonin, general manager Danny Ferry, legal officer Scott Wilkinson, assistant GM Wes Wilcox, several investors and members of the basketball operations staff. Among the players discussed were Channing Frye, Boris Diaw, Thabo Sefolosha, Luol Deng, Greg Monroe and Pau Gasol.

June 9: After spending the weekend concerned about comments made specific to Deng, Gearon Jr. inquires whether an associate took notes on the conference call and is told that it was recorded. Gearon calls his attorney, Steve Estep, and discusses his concerns. They then call well-known Atlanta lawyer and judge William Hill.

June 11: Gearon meets with Hill and plays him the recording of the call. Hill says he views the racist comment to imply that all persons of African descent to be a "two-faced liar and cheat."

June 12: Gearon emails a letter to Levenson expressing his concern about Ferry's remarks, the consequences should the comments be made public and calling for him to remove Ferry either by resignation or termination. Gearon leaves for a two-day business trip to Europe.

June 13: Levenson responds that evening and the two exchange several more emails about the subject. Gearon asks if Levenson recalls Ferry's remarks and informs him there is a tape of the call. Levenson responds by writing: "Very concerned. Send copy of recording. Will listen to it and call you." When asked again whether Levenson and partner Ed Peskowitz had heard the comments about Deng, Levenson responds that Peskowitz is in Israel but that he "didn't come away with the same level of concern" and wants to hear the recording.

June 14: Unable to send the large audio file from his phone, Gearon breaks from a meeting and transcribes the portion of the recording concerning Deng in a restaurant in Amsterdam. He sends the transcript to Levenson.

June 16: A meeting is held at Gearon's office. In attendance are both Gearons, Estep, co-owner Rutherford Seydel, Levenson and team legal officer Scott Wilkinson. The Gearons believe the reason for the meeting was to play the recording of the conference call. They are informed that Levenson has begun an independent investigation into the entire organization that will be conducted by the law firm of Alston and Bird. They are informed to check their computer servers for any documents that contain issues of race.

June 17: The sides begin to set up interviews with Alston and Bird. While searching his server, Gearon finds an email Levenson wrote to Ferry two years previously with inflammatory remarks about the racial makeup of the Hawks fan base and game operations. That email, after being reported to the NBA, led Levenson to announce he was selling his controlling interest in the team. The email was forwarded to Gearon sometime after it was written on Aug. 25, 2012, and included subsequent back-and-forth emails between Levenson and Ferry. Part of those email exchanges includes Ferry's displeasure with the over-the-top nature of public address announcer Ryan Cameron.

June 18: Levenson writes an email to Gearon and Seydel condemning the June 12 letter. "While I believe your two recent emails to me are filled with false and misleading comments that require pages and pages of response, for the moment I must tell you that I'm perplexed at the course of action you took. … Your emails have triggered an independent investigation that will get to the bottom of your allegation but they also trigger for me serious questions about our partnership."

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