The ‘Atlanta Way’ is best path forward

Andrew Young is a former Atlanta mayor, ambassador to the United Nations and congressman.

Atlanta has been my home for more than 50 years now. Like many, I chose this special place to build a life. It is the place where I have served, where I have worshipped and where I have applauded the exploits of many Atlanta heroes on the basketball court, the diamond and the football field.

If there’s one thing I love as much as this city, it is the teams that call it home. Much has changed since we secured our three major sports franchises in the 1960’s, but the passion for the Braves, Falcons and Hawks has not dimmed.

When you love something, it has the power to break your heart. While failures on the court can cause some pain, it has been the issues off the court in recent weeks that have opened wounds long thought to be healed in our community.

I don’t believe that it is productive to focus on the comments that have brought controversy to the community of late. I will only say that the words expressed do not reflect the city I love and have no place inside any organization. Those that made the remarks are no longer a part of the Hawks, which is best.

I am proud to know that our local ownership group raised their hands when they heard divisive language inside the organization. They fully understood the impact those words would have on our city and this franchise. It takes men of courage to speak up when others don’t. While the process to get to this place may not have been pleasant, their voice and steadfastness has ensured that we will again have leadership in this organization that this community can embrace.

I have heard some say that recent events will cause coaches and players to stay away from the Hawks. I say to those who are skeptical of coming to Atlanta, don’t be. Come here and make a name for yourself. This town will embrace you long after your career is over. Just ask men like Henry Aaron and Dominique Wilkins. They will tell you that there is no better place to become a legend, to raise a family and no better community to call home.

If there is one thing I have learned in my time in our wonderful city, it is that there is an Atlanta Way. It is deliberate and distinct. When we have problems here, we don’t hide, we work as a team and tackle them head on. The events of recent weeks and the reaction of those in this community have made my faith in that belief even stronger.

So today I choose to look forward, not backward. I want the Hawks to recapture the heart of the Atlanta Way and that starts at the top. While a life in public service has not put me in the financial position to purchase the team, let me offer a small bit of unsolicited advice to whomever chooses to be a steward of our community asset – embrace this extraordinary city. See the diversity of Atlanta as its strength, not a hindrance that keeps seats empty. Spend time with those in the stands to understand why they have paid their hard-earned money to bring their family to a game. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. What you will learn is that this is a town that yearns for a winner and will support that winner like no other city in America.

Atlanta has been challenged and will come out stronger. It is the Atlanta Way.

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