The city of Atlanta and its citizens, major Keisha Lance Bottoms, and the athletes representing the Black voice of pro sports in the city, as well as the white owners of the Atlanta Hawks have joined the ranks of corporations and organizations not only showing support for the George Floyd peaceful protests but condemning the systematic oppression of Black people in America and the aggressive and unconstitutional actions of their local police departments.
The following was released to media on behalf of Principal Owner Tony Ressler:
“This is a time when all of us need to focus on this critical and all too pervasive human issue – systemic racism. To be as blunt as possible on this topic of dignity, decency, and progress, I emphatically believe that you are either part of the solution or you are the problem. Black lives matter. There is no in-between. We, as an organization and part of the Atlanta community, are determined to be a part of the solution.
Jami and I believe that as the owners of a professional sports franchise in the great city of Atlanta, we have a responsibility to take a stand and devote our resources to supporting programming and causes that bring about the most impactful changes possible. The continuing effects of centuries of racism and prejudice are massive. The inequities are plain to see in how certain communities are unjustly policed, the staggering incarceration rate and the financial disparities among different races. We are keenly aware that these are longstanding, complex issues that have no instant cures.
However, I am proud of the step our organization took today and can promise that our franchise will continue taking the steps and supporting the causes that lead to a more tolerant, anti-racist society.”
The Atlanta Hawks are one of eight NBA teams out of 30 that have a Black coach, despite the fact that more than 80 percent of the league is Black. Head coach Lloyd Pierce has always been vocal about the importance of being in Atlanta — one of the leading cities for Black excellence — and the city’s responsibility to promoting and cultivating that Black excellence on every level.
Diversity at the leadership positions is always a source of concern from African-Americans, but men like Lloyd represent the very change that MLK died for. Beyond coaching, Lloyd is an active champion for equal rights.
Prior to these protests, Coach Pierce partnered with the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP), an independent non-profit organization that works to correct and prevent wrongful convictions in Georgia.
Moments like this are what he coaches for and champions for. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the Hawks hierarchy and organization came out with a strong stance against racism and police brutality, as well as opening up a dialogue between white and Black employees and also educating white employees on how they can be positive contributors to a movement that is moving forward with or without them.
The following was released to media on behalf of the Atlanta Hawks & State Farm Arena organization:
“Earlier today, members of our organization at every level – from part-time to ownership – joined together virtually to discuss the recent and recurring examples of weaponized racism, police brutality and race-based preferential treatment affecting people of color, especially the Black Community, across the nation.
Al Vivian, the President and CEO of Basic Diversity, led us through a conversation filled with anger, tears, disgust, fear and sadness before helping us transition into a place of hope and solutions – a place to begin to “plot, plan, strategize and mobilize,” to borrow the eloquent words of our friend and partner Killer Mike. Our conversation today was the first of many we will have as we seek ways to bring about lasting change and make certain that Black lives matter.
In a world full of corporate ‘statements’ and 280-character declarations, we know the greatest statement we can make is by taking action. As part of our conversation today, every member of our organization committed to using their voice to stand against racism and injustice.
As an organization, we have vowed to use our platform and influence to register voters and continue denouncing the ideology and broken systems that led to the tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others before them. We hold ourselves accountable to be leaders in our community and will use our position to be a force for justice and for what is right.”