On Friday morning, Atlanta Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce released a joint statement in reaction to the NBA’s 22-team restart plan in Orlando. While the omission of the Hawks from the league’s “bubble” setting certainly presents a tangible impact on the organization, members of the organization — headlined by Pierce, CEO Steve Koonin and star point guard Trae Young — have been active in using their platforms to speak out against systemic racism and police brutality as protests continue across the country.
With that in mind, Hawks owner Tony Ressler released an official statement on Friday evening.
“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.”
At the same time, the Hawks and State Farm Arena released an organizational statement after holding a company-wide workshop and panel conversation earlier in the day.
“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.”
As noted in both statements, actions speak louder than words and the Hawks continue to lead effectively during this challenging time. Peachtree Hoops stands alongside the Hawks organization in a commitment to stand against racism, police brutality and injustice, with the continuing reality that many things are simply more important than basketball.