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Hawks go beyond black square, push for state’s largest polling station

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Awareness is only the first step.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After acknowledging change in the country is necessary, State Farm Arena and the Atlanta Hawks took it a step further with action.

State Farm Arena is now home to Georgia’s largest voting precinct ever. The venue will allow all Fulton County registered residents to vote in the upcoming elections while adhering to the CDC social distancing guidelines. The station is open to the public on July 20, which is when early voting for the Georgia General Primary Runoff Election on Aug. 11 begins. Fulton County Registration & Elections will operate election tasks at the site like processing absentee ballots.

Leadership from the Hawks offered up the arena as a voting location. It is a proposal head coach Lloyd Pierce brought to light during a protest with the NAACP.

“We oppose Senate bill 463 that limits the ability for us as citizens to exercise our right to vote,” Pierce said during the rally, as captured in a video by AJC’s Sarah Spencer. “I want to finish saying I was born a Black man, and I know one day I’ll die a Black man. Just as a lot of players and coaches that are on this stage, but I don’t want to die just because I’m a Black man.”

The Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, a government agency, is the owner of the property and leases the site to the Atlanta Hawks organization.

The sudden NBA suspension in March due to the coronavirus pandemic put a halt on many Hawk-related employees’ incomes, but the election gives them the chance to return to work. Hundreds of Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena full-time and part-time employees will be trained to serve as election workers to further support the operations.

“Fulton County is grateful to the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for being an outstanding partner,” Robb Pitts, Fulton County Commission Chairman, said. “Tony Ressler, Steve Koonin and their organization have once again demonstrated that the Hawks are True to Atlanta.”

Over 1,500 parking spots around the arena will be complimentary for vehicles with one registered voter. MARTA is also reopening its Mercedes-Benz Stadium, State Farm Arena, Georgia World Congress Center, CNN Center stop to accommodate voters.

Many organizations talked about change in the wake of George Floyd’s death and protests against social justice. Most professional sport franchises posted a black square in solidarity with Black people. With this latest move, however, the Hawks are one of the first organizations to go beyond acknowledging the issue to enter the next phase, which is action.