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Atlanta civil rights leaders protesting after Hawks cancel meeting

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The two sides still plan to meet after Wednesday's meeting was canceled, but local activists in Atlanta say they're "obviously offended" by the situation.

Kevin C. Cox

Local civil rights leaders in Atlanta are staging an impromptu protest at Philips Arena after the Hawks canceled a meeting scheduled between the two parties, CBS 46 Atlanta reports.

Rev. Markel Hutchins and other activists say they were turned away from the team's facilities Wednesday despite Hawks CEO Steve Koonin previously agreeing to meet with them to discuss the recent controversy surrounding departing owner Bruce Levenson, GM Danny Ferry and the franchise.

"We are obviously offended but we’re not so offended that we’re willing to not converse. We still intend to meet. But the meeting must be a meeting with civil rights membership because that’s what they agreed to. Steve told The Associated Press he wanted to meet with civil rights leadership," Hutchins said.

The activists then decided to have a sit in:

On Sunday, the league announced that Levenson would sell his shares in the Hawks after the revelation of an email containing offensive statements concerning race and the team's fan base. It was later discovered that the message was uncovered as a result of a comprehensive investigation of the franchise following an offensive remark made by Ferry while discussing longtime NBA forward Luol Deng with other team officials.

Hutchins says he spoke with Koonin for 30-40 minutes on Monday night to set up the meeting, at which point both sides agreed to Wednesday, but Koonin called him back Tuesday night to say the team needed more time. The civil rights leaders showed up at the arena for the meeting anyways, only to be turned away.

The Hawks officially responded to the situation Wednesday afternoon with a statement from the team's PR department:

"Koonin postponed today’s meeting last night. This conversation is a priority for us. We are committed to having this meeting and will work with community leaders to reschedule as soon as possible. We ask our community to work with us, be patient with us, and help us heal."