Atlanta Hawks’ new City Edition uniforms to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

The Atlanta Hawks unveiled their new City Edition uniforms Sunday, and the design prominently features three initials on the jersey’s chest: “MLK.”

When Atlanta wears its newest uniform during the 2020-21 NBA season, the team will be paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. King was born and raised in Atlanta before attending Morehouse College in the city and preaching at the city’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. It’s the first time in NBA history that the initials of an individual will be featured prominently on an official uniform.

Proceeds from sales of the jersey will be donated into the Atlanta community, the team said, with the focus of economic empowerment for communities of color. 

The “infinity black” uniform has been in the works for multiple years, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In addition to the obvious “MLK” across the chest, there are 22 stars on each side of the shorts. The stars are meant to honor 22 of the 29 times King was jailed in the fight for equality, while also honoring the Freedom Fighters, who took part in sit-ins in the South. They’re a reference to King’s quote, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

The Hawks play on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January every year. These City Edition uniforms will be worn for “select” games during the 2020-21 season, which is yet to have a determined start date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MLK Day in 2021 is Jan. 18.

The uniform as a whole is meant to invoke the feel of churches, where King did much of his preaching, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“No one could have ever anticipated that the world, that we would be in the current state, as we are, as a country, and so we really thought that we’re obviously going to be unveiling it as we have our City Edition, but the sentiment of the uniform is at a completely different level than we could have ever anticipated at the time of development,” Hawks chief marketing officer Melissa Proctor told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Always important, obviously, for Dr. King and the city.” 

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