On March 2, the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club was awarded the Best Diversity Campaign or Initiative Award at the 3rd Annual Cynopsis Social Good Awards in New York. The award is given to a network, brand, agency or corporation that is committed to racial, ethnic, religious, and gender diversity.
“We are humbled to receive the Cynopsis Award for best diversity initiative. As an organization, we strive each day to foster a positive environment of diversity within the city of Atlanta and beyond by using our platform to initiate open and productive dialogues that spur positive change,” said Nzinga Shaw, Atlanta Hawks Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and SVP, Community in a press release.
Last year, Hawks employees volunteered more than 1,000 hours of community service to local community non-profits during Unity Week. The weekend events took place from Oct. 7 through Oct. 10. Six service projects with the Atlanta Community Food Bank Community Gardens, Covenant House, CHRIS 180, Fountain of Hope, MedShare and United Methodist Children’s Home were completed during the Unity Day of Service.
The Hawks organization was also the only professional Atlanta team to have a dedicated float in the city’s 46th annual PRIDE Festival parade. A custom-made PRIDE float was accompanied by over 100 Hawks employees, who rode on and marched with the float during the parade. They also handed out UNITY branded mini-basketballs and game ticket vouchers.
The first ever “Unity Game” between the Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers was the climax of the weekend. Before the game started, the players and coaches from both teams locked arms in a display of unity. The teams asked everyone in Phillips Arena to lock arms and stand united with them during the national anthem.
“Events such as Unity Weekend, which encourage inclusion and bring people together for a common goal, create stronger communities and greater understanding of the cultures that make up our city,” Shaw said.
In the past, the Hawks faced criticism for allegedly being racially insensitive. Wes Wilcox, Atlanta Hawks general manager, apologized for making a racially charged comment during a team-orientated discussion in Dec. 2016. Former Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry stepped down in 2015 after an audio recording of Ferry making racially inappropriate comments about then-free agent Luol Deng was released.
The franchise has made several diversity and community efforts. The team also received Honorable Mentions for the Best Spot for its “True to Atlanta” public service announcement and Philanthropic/Human Rights Campaign categories, both of which highlight the Hawks Foundation’s Court Renovation Project.
The project pledges to build or revamp 25 public basketball courts in the metro Atlanta area over the course of five years. So far, eight courts have been completed and access to play basketball increased for 600,000 local residents.