As NFL star Ray Rice sits frozen in the national crosshairs, and understandably so, the guileless folks running the Atlanta Hawks are lingering in the rear, surely relieved to be in the background.
The NBA couldn't have picked a better time to unveil another racial controversy.
The league's latest predicament requiring damage control was created when the Hawks' controlling partner, Bruce Levenson, failed to use standard code for a marketing strategy commonly used by franchises throughout American sports.
The prickly matter was exacerbated when it was discovered that general manager Danny Ferry, in issuing a scouting report in June, failed to properly censor himself.
Now that we know Levenson expressed prejudicial views in an email to team executives, including Ferry, there is a knee-jerk desire to toss him into a subterranean cell, right next to the infamous Donald T. Sterling – as if the two are racists from the same fraternity.
They are not.
Though Levenson is destined to meet the same fate as Sterling – selling the team, slinking away with pockets full but image shredded – there is at least one very discernable difference.
Sterling was an old-school racist, wearing his prejudice like a badge of honor. His epic mistake was having his words caught on tape.
Levenson is new school, his biases usually more subtle. His epic mistake, made months ago, was being impolitic. He did not stick with a safe euphemism, such as "desired demographic," when leaving his digital trail.
Sterling's feelings always were transparent, seen in a list of lawsuits and comments exposing his history of discrimination. The former Clippers owner made little or no attempt to hide his beliefs. In an evolving world, such folks are a vanishing species.
Levenson is more cunning and careful because he understands there are – aside from those still clutching a hard right-wing agenda – consequences that come with being too unsophisticated.
Such folks are not a vanishing species. They are rampant, often roaming the corridors of power and influence in major businesses around the globe.
That includes sport. Human rights activist Dr. Richard Lapchick remains on the job as a watchdog for diversity in American sports because his role still is vital.
Though the United States has twice elected a president with brown skin, white men continue to dominate power positions in major sports.
Levenson is part of this club, at least until he sells his share of the Hawks.
Whereas Sterling is a doddering relic, Levenson is active and contemporary, months removed from speaking out strongly against Sterling, insisting the NBA have "zero tolerance" for racial prejudice.
Levenson, 62, also is a business executive with the primary goal of growing his wealth. The fastest route is to attract wealthy investors to his product, which is a basketball team in a league where the talent is 70 percent black.
He perceived this as a particularly difficult challenge insofar as he believes Hawks games are attended by the highest percentage of black fans in the league.
The team's fan base was, Levenson concluded, too black and therefore unlikely to appeal to southern whites. He was seeking ways to cater to a whiter audience, which statistically has more disposable income. This is not a unique marketing ploy.
It’s typical for a business to seek "exclusive" clientele, with the belief it will result in greater revenue. The desire to encourage the moneyed crowd, while simultaneously ignoring or discouraging the blue collars, is more prevalent that we'd like to believe.
But it's there in certain designer stores and boutiques. It's discernable by the playlists of DJs in certain nightclubs. It's evident in dress codes and haircuts.
Levenson's goal was that of every sports-team owner. He tripped himself with his choice of words and phrases. He was much too candid.
Ferry's statement off a scouting report of free agent forward Luol Deng is unprofessional and even more disparaging. Ferry reportedly described Deng as having "a little African in him," and as a guy "who would have a nice store out front but and you counterfeit stuff out of the back."
For uttering something that could have from the mouth of any scout behind closed doors or sipping beers in public, Ferry is being disciplined and could lose his job.
So now the NBA, which successfully sells itself as an equal-opportunity league, once again finds itself in the awkward position of trying to show folks it truly believes all men are created equal. It is forced to defend itself in the court of public perception.
It can sigh about doing so when so many eyes are turned toward the NFL.