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In the midst of the continued fight against systemic injustice, several athletes and franchises have led initiatives at the intersection of sports and activism. One of the latest efforts is being spearheaded by the Atlanta Hawks. The basketball franchise recently inked an exclusive financing deal with Black-owned banks, the NBA reported.

The deal is historic as it marks the first time a professional sports team has secured financing with Black-owned financial institutions. The $35 million loan will refinance the construction of Emory Sports Medicine Complex. The Brookhaven-based facility houses the Atlanta Hawks’ practice and training spaces. The arrangement was overseen by the National Black Bank Foundation and Carver State Bank—a Black-owned bank that has been in existence for 93 years—was the Lead Arranger. Amongst the other financial institutions that are a part of the deal include Commonwealth National Bank, Optus Bank, Liberty Bank & Trust, Industrial Bank, Citizens Trust Bank and Citizens Savings Bank.

Tony Ressler, who serves as Principal Owner of the Atlanta Hawks, says he hopes the deal will drive economic change by addressing the lack of access to capital often faced by Black entrepreneurs. “Today’s announcement reflects our commitment to putting our values into action–by choosing to work with Black banks and drawing attention to the need for Black banks to thrive as they work toward addressing the lack of access to capital in Black communities,” he said in a statement.  “We always strive to ask ourselves how the Hawks can best help those in the community that are already helping others, and today’s announcement is another step in our commitment to use the Hawks as a positive agent of change.  This is both good for the community and good business to empower new and existing Black businesses.” Carver State Bank executive Robert E. James II says the deal exemplifies true allyship. “What we earn from this loan strengthens our collective ability to provide even more loans and financial services to Black small businesses and consumers, and we are able to show our ability to pull off a large, sophisticated loan transaction. Tony and his team are real allies in the movement for racial equity,” he said.

Efforts like the one being led by the Atlanta Hawks are needed. According to NPR, Black-owned financial institutions control less than 1 percent of the country’s banking assets and there are less than 50 that exist in the U.S.

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