Atlanta Hawks honor Martin Luther King Jr. with special edition jerseys

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Trae Young (Right) and De’Andre Hunter (Left) shake hands while wearing the MLK jersey.

The Atlanta Hawks have released their city edition jersey which celebrates the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., who was born and raised in Atlanta.

Each team in the NBA (National Basketball Association) has released their own version of a city edition jersey, which represents each city’s individual team in it’s own way.

The Hawks played their first game in the jersey on MLK day, Jan. 18, and will wear the jersey throughout the entire season.

The initials of King are shown on the front of the jersey and his signature is on the bottom left of the jersey. The black, gold and white colorway represents King’s determination and is also a nod to the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity which is the first Black Greek letter organization that King was a part of. The stars alongside on the side of the shorts represent the 22 times King was arrested for fighting for social justice and equality.

“There’s nothing better that we can do to represent the city of Atlanta than rolling out some jerseys that represent Dr. King and the legacy of Dr. King,” said Lloyd Pierce, Atlanta Hawks head coach.

The significance of the jersey is being recognized by student athletes at GHC as well.

“During a time like this, the significance means everything. The jersey shows how much power our athletes really have. They are playing for something bigger, and to be able to put MLK on the front of their jerseys and perform for our country says levels. [The Atlanta Hawks] are letting it be known that they will continue to fight for the things our ancestors fought for,” said Chargers guard, Cahiem Brown.

The Hawks’ hardwood court will also be customized to represent the themes of the King jersey. The Hawks’ logo in the center of the court will be customized to look like a mosaic pattern of a stained glass motif that would be found in a church.

The Hawks players are proud to represent the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and some players feel as though the jersey gives them an advantage while playing.

“I feel like, for me, it just gives a little bit of an edge. A little bit more of a chip to play harder and prove to the city of Atlanta that we’ve earned these letters,” said Hawks forward, John Collins.

On Jan. 7, The Vatican reached out to the Hawks for one of the MLK jerseys so the pope could bless and pray over the team and the jersey. The pope also acknowledged the stand players in the NBA have taken in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Hawks posted a video on multiple social media platforms showing the pope receiving and blessing the jersey.

The Hawks have stated that proceeds from the jersey sales will go to support economic empowerment programs for Atlanta’s communities of color.