Sports teams and leagues around the United States are currently trying to figure out how they should proceed with regards to the Black Lives Matter movement and not just supporting their players’ voices, but impacting change as organizations themselves.
One such way is to look internally at their own hiring practices and look to elevate more Black people to executive level positions and positions of power within the organization. Having prominent Black voices in the organization can also help them focus their efforts to create change in their communities as well, as evidenced by the Atlanta Hawks. Lloyd Pierce has been the head coach of the Hawks for the last two seasons and while he’s at the helm of a young, rebuilding squad that’s gone through its ups and downs on the court, his work off the court and in the community has been nothing short of spectacular.
Pierce has spoken previously about his work with the Georgia Innocence Project, and takes his role as a Black man with a prominent platform in the Atlanta community very seriously. Pierce has played a major role in the Hawks’ response to the current Black Lives Matter movement, speaking at marches and encouraging the team to look at what it can do as an organization in the community.
While many have pointed to voting as an important part of the process of initiating change in this country, the issue of voter suppression has often been glossed over. Seeing that issue pop up again during primary voting recently — notably in the predominantly Black areas of Atlanta — prompted LeBron James to get fellow star athletes from the sports world to start More Than A Vote, a nationwide program to not only encourage voter registration and being active in elections, but to combat voter suppression efforts in communities nationwide.
The Hawks made an announcement on Monday that they were taking a major step to try and make it easier for more people in Atlanta to vote, as the Fulton County Board of Elections made State Farm Arena an official voting precinct — which will now be Georgia’s largest-ever voting precinct. The significance of the Hawks getting their arena approved starting with the upcoming primary runoff elections on August 11 — with early voting July 20 — and the general elections this November is huge, particularly given the issues Fulton County voters have faced in recent elections.
The disparity between the voting experience in predominantly white neighborhoods in Atlanta and Black communities is preposterous — and the variance is not just from county to county but within counties as well. Voting machines that fail to work create long lines and wait times that can be many hours in predominantly Black areas, and the hope is that by opening such a large precinct in downtown Atlanta, more people will be able to vote — and do so faster.
It’s not just that the Hawks offered up their arena as a voting precinct, but are clearly putting time and resources into making it happen that offers some optimism that it can help the problem. Having an entity with the financial resources and influence in the city taking notice of this problem is important to highlight these issues and hopefully actually make a difference in changing the voting experience for the often underserved communities in Atlanta.