05.21.09

Hawks Owner : I’m No Whammer

Posted in Basketball, Hockey, Sports Journalism, The Internet at 6:31 pm by

Apologies if you’ve already seen this, but perhaps it’s time for the publishers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to purchase Kristi Swartz a copy of “Pseudononymous E-Mail Harassment For Dummies”.  I don’t know the author’s real name, but I’m sure some of his peers were active back when CSTB was semi-popular.   Hawks/Thrashers owner Bruce Levenson penned the following earlier this week for Sports Business Journal :

AJC reporter Kristi Swartz asked me for a private meeting recently. The subject matter, she said, was too important to discuss by phone or even by e-mail. I agreed to meet.

Her earth-shattering topic: She wanted to know if I was œWhammer. She produced a stack of printouts from œWhammer.

It seems œWhammer has been e-mailing the AJC frequently in recent years in response to sports columnist Jeff Schultz™s articles critical of my teams, our management and our ownership. Whammer™s rambling rants attack Schultz, while defending the Hawks and Thrashers organization. In one of his many posts, Whammer echoes the oft-stated but ridiculous notion that Atlanta fans are bad fans who do not support their teams. This notion first surfaced, as best I know, when the Braves failed to sell out some playoff games in the 1990s.

I explained to Swartz that I was not Whammer. I have responded to AJC articles and others, but always in my own name. It™s one of the values I™ve stressed to the journalists at my own company: You lose credibility with anonymity.

Swartz did not believe me. In what she thought was a œgotcha moment, she told me software at the AJC had traced Whammer™s e-mail address to my company™s internal network, thereby, I guess, proving I must be Whammer. I explained to her that approximately 700 people from Atlanta to Singapore have access to our network. I readily admitted that one of those people, either out of loyalty to me, disdain for Schultz or both, could likely be the author of these e-mails.

Later that day, Swartz informed me that at the exact time I was meeting with her, Whammer struck again. I was off the hook, she told me, adding that the paper now thought that Whammer could be my partner Ed. (What she didn™t know: Ed at the time was in the hospital battling spinal meningitis, unable to even look at a computer screen.)

œIf you are not Whammer, what will you do to stop these e-mails? Swartz asked me. I told her I wouldn™t do anything. We don™t read our employees™ e-mails; I wasn™t going to conduct a witch hunt; and even if I found out who the person was I couldn™t prevent him or her from sending e-mails (or old-fashioned mail for that matter) to the AJC in this wonderfully free country.

Levenson points out the newspaper went to unusual lengths to learn the identity of Schultz’ tormentor (“the AJC can find out who you are or at least find out the company you work for and come after you and your boss”).  Given the paper is less than interested in censoring negative comments made about other public figures, such selective behavior seems like an abuse of power.

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