Today the Atlanta Hawks announced an unprecedented partnership with the estate of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and Nike with the release of its 2020 –21 MLK Nike City Edition uniform. For the first time in the league’s history, the initials of an individual will be featured prominently on the chest of an official NBA game uniform. The Hawks will be donating profits from the jersey sales back into the Atlanta community to help further initiatives championed by Dr. King.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., became a global symbol of the fight for racial equality through his platform of non-violence. He attended his hometown’s historic Morehouse College, entering as a freshman when he was just 15 years old. While he continued to call Atlanta home, raising his family and pastoring at local churches like Ebenezer Baptist with his father, Dr. King led initiatives that caught
the attention of a worldwide audience, including the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the March on Washington. The latter is where he made his watershed “I Have a Dream” speech, playing a significant role in his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. His life and leadership were cut short at age of 39 by an assassin, as he organized for the rights of sanitation workers in Memphis.
“It is an incredible privilege to be able to represent the legacy of Dr. King, one of Atlanta’s native sons and one of the nation’s most transformative leaders. His message of equality, non-violence, and justice is as relevant today as it was in the 60s and we are proud to not only help educate legions of young fans about Dr. King’s work, but empower them to pick up his mantle and embody the change they wish to see in their communities,” said Hawks Chief Marketing Officer, Melissa Proctor. “We are honored that the King Estate would entrust us with these powerful initials.”
Deeply connected to the tenets of Dr. King’s social activism are the roots from which the Atlanta Hawks’ own civic work grows. The team has a well-demonstrated commitment to building bridges through basketball to help better the community. The Hawks’ ongoing efforts in addressing food insecurity, access to early voting, and entrepreneurial development are directly tied to crucial issues on which Dr. King focused, including racial equality, voting rights, and economic justice. In a franchise first, profits from the sale of the groundbreaking jersey will be given to programs that help to continue Dr. King’s work regarding economic empowerment for communities of color.
“We were honored to learn of the Atlanta Hawks’ desire to pay homage to Dr. King’s life and legacy by using him as the focus of their 2020 – 21 MLK Nike City Edition uniform design. During this challenging climate, it is our hope that this visual reminder of Dr. King’s legacy will inspire people to further educate themselves on how he effected change using his philosophy and methods of nonviolence during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. We look forward to continuing to work with the Hawks to perpetuate his wonderful legacy,” said Eric D. Tidwell, Esq., Managing Director & General Counsel of Intellectual Properties Management, Inc., (Manager of the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).
The 2020 – 21 Atlanta Hawks MLK Nike City Edition uniform pays homage to the world’s greatest “Drum Major for Justice” through personal elements woven into the design details and a thoughtfully selected color scheme. The uniform was created through a collaborative effort between the Nike design team, Hawks ownership, and the team’s CMO, Melissa Proctor, V.P. of Brand Creative Shirley Zhang, and V.P. of Brand Merchandising Amy Serino.
Infinity Black: This principal hue of the Atlanta Hawks Nike Statement Edition and City Edition uniforms denotes the team’s bold, relentless, and unapologetic approach to competition and community.
Vintage Gold: The subtle and sedate golden tone highlights the reverence befitting the memory of a global icon and reflects an air of sophistication.
Fidelity White: Dedication and loyalty to the great city of Atlanta along with the ideals of equality and compassion come through in this crisp and classic white.
The Black, Gold and White colorway speaks to Dr. King’s determination, as well as his understated style. It is also a nod to Dr. King’s membership in the first Black Greek fraternity. Bold Vintage Gold MLK letters, outlined in Fidelity White, blaze across the uniform chest, the initials of an eternal role model whose words of equality and justice are the foundation of today’s powerful activism. The stars donning both sides of the shorts represent 22 of the 29 times Dr. King was jailed fighting for justice and equality, while also paying tribute to the dedicated student freedom fighters who engaged in sit-ins all over the South. Of them, he said, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Towards the bottom of the jersey, Dr. King’s personal signature graces the authenticity tag.
Several of the design details of the uniform are inspired by architectural elements of churches where Dr. King delivered some of his most moving sermons. The uniform is bordered in White and Gold striping that lead to tapered peak at the side of the shorts mirroring the silhouette of stained-glass windows. The crown and shield symbol on the leg of the shorts is inspired by church windows and Dr. King’s personal effects. At the waistband is the Hawks’ Primary Icon logo encircled in black symbolizing the continuous quest of the Black community to achieve freedom and justice. This heat-applied graphic is made of a soft touch rubber. The Nike Swoosh placed at the right jersey strap, just opposite of the Sharecare jersey partner patch above the heart.
Since 2017, the Atlanta Hawks have held a multiyear partnership with Sharecare, the Atlanta-based digital health company, which serves as the team’s inaugural jersey patch sponsor and its partner in the Sharecare Movement – a community-driven initiative launched by both organizations to make Georgia and Atlanta one of the healthiest places in the country. In addition to the Sharecare patch over the “heart” of every jersey, the Atlanta Hawks and Sharecare are united by a shared passion and pride for the legacy of Atlanta and our world-changing leaders like Dr. King, whose life’s works paved the way for happier, healthier, and more equitable futures for all.