The Hawks will culminate three days of community service and inclusion with a Unity Game on Oct. 10, the preseason home opener against the Cavaliers, the team announced Monday.
Members of the Hawks organization will participate in two events leading up to the exhibition game - six service projects within Atlanta and participation in the 46th Atlanta Pride Festival. The Atlanta Hawks Foundation will also make financial donations to seven organizations, including the Center for Civil and Human Rights, as part of the event.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin calls the organization’s involvement in the community its “brand promise.”
“Our purpose in Atlanta is to entertain and unite the city through basketball,” Koonin said. “… This is consistent behavior of what we’ve been doing in getting more and more involved and become a fabric of the community.”
On Oct. 7, approximately 300 members of the Hawks organization, along with their broadcast and television partners, will volunteer at service projects with Atlanta Community Food Bank Community Gardens, CHRIS 180, Covenant House, Fountain of Hope, Medshare and United Methodist Children’s Home. There is a possibility that other organizations could be added. All employees will be given paid time off for the service projects and the Hawks expect to total about 1,000 hours. Each organization will be provided with complimentary ticket vouchers for the game against the Cavaliers.
On Oct. 9, the Hawks will again take part in the Pride Festival, this year by building and riding on a float in the parade.
On Oct. 10, both Hawks and Cavaliers players will take part in specially-produced videos that will air throughout the game explaining what unity means to them and how the next generation of Atlantans and Clevelanders can positively impact their respective cities. In a special halftime ceremony, National Center for Civil and Human Rights CEO Derreck Kayongo will address the crowd and speak on the topics of unity, inclusion and social harmony.
“In terms of the communities that we are able to reach, I can certainly say that the nature of our business is more dynamic and more unifying than any business I’ve ever worked in corporate America,” Nzinga Shaw, Hawks Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Sports has a unique way of connecting multiple people from multiple demographics around a singular message of team work, unity, strength and being resilient in the face of adversity.”
The concept for Unity Day came from an all-employee forum in July which followed a series of what the organization called “unsettling and alarming events” around the nation. The staff of approximately 125 attendees, was asked to think of ways the Hawks organization could unite the city. Within the forum, the themes of community service, inclusion and using basketball as a change agent led to the creation of the event.
“One hundred percent proud because this is real life,” Shaw said. “The issues that we are trying to tackle and the communities that we are trying to real are real. They are not figures of anyone’s imagination. They are real people. To be able to be a catalyst for change and a catalyst to bring people together and unite with a positive message at the center of what we are doing is invaluable, specifically in the city of Atlanta that is the home of civil rights.”