ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks and the Ressler Gertz Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Hawks Principal Owners Tony Ressler and Jami Gertz, has announced an extremely generous investment in the city’s Black-owned businesses and future economic opportunities for the community.
The $40 million announcement includes a “long-term, comprehensive plan to provide financial, marketing and educational resources to Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the city of Atlanta in an effort to create greater economic opportunity in the Black community.”
The Ressler Gertz Family Foundation said it has committed to contributing $5 million to the Herman J. Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the largest non-profit center for Black entrepreneurs in the nation, to expand its reach and provide financial support to local Black-owned businesses through increased access, opportunity and exposure as well as expanding future RCIE programming.
The foundation says the gift will also increase RCIE’s ability to provide Black entrepreneurs access to corporate partners and capital as well as utilization of all Hawks marketing channels.
Located on the city’s Westside and bordering the Atlanta University Center (the largest association of Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs), RCIE says it aims to create 2,000 jobs in Atlanta, develop 250 new startup companies, provide resources to 700 existing business in order to grow their companies by five to 10 employees and increase Black household wealth in greater Atlanta by over $70 million during the next five years.
The foundation says Atlanta ranks among the lowest cities in the U.S. for economic mobility for Black people, which underscores the pertinence and relevance of RCIE’s efforts to serve as catalyst for change.
“Located in the heart of Atlanta and founded by one of Atlanta’s most successful, entrepreneurial families, RCIE is one of the most innovative organizations that is providing real solutions for Atlanta’s Black community and contributing directly to the growth of Black businesses, jobs, and wealth. Systemic barriers have prevented the Black community from pursuing the educational, employment, and business opportunities necessary to fully contribute to and benefit from our growing local economy,” Tony Ressler said. “Jami and I take our responsibility as owners of a professional sport franchise in the great city of Atlanta very seriously – and with that responsibility is a commitment to devote resources to organizations that are making tangible, impactful change. In my career, I have built and supported many businesses, and I believe that the access to mentors and capital, opportunity to market products and services, and exposure to customers that RCIE provides is invaluable to the growth of the Black business community in Atlanta. We look forward to adding our resources, connections and platform to this brilliant organization and its mission.”
In partnership with the National Basketball Players Association to support greater economic empowerment in the Black community, the Hawks Foundation also pledged $10 million to the new NBA Foundation. Launched in August, the NBA Foundation will work directly with all 30 teams, affiliated charitable organizations and the NBPA to support national organizations and those within the city of Atlanta to facilitate sustainable programming and create positive change locally.
Tony Ressler is one of eight members of the Board of Directors, which will oversee all business affairs and provide strategic direction for the foundation.
As part of its commitment to be a civic asset, the Hawks were the first team in professional sports to hire a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. Now under the leadership of Hawks & State Farm Arena Chief People, Diversity & Inclusion Officer Camye Mackey, the team recently announced plans to grow its commitment over the next decade with a $11 million investment, including hiring a newly-created VP of D&I Programming position to expand on its current award-winning programming.
The Hawks launched a Diversity & Inclusion Council in 2015 to strength its ties within the community, created MOSAIC (Model of Shaping Atlanta through Inclusive Conversations) bringing together more than 300 influential Atlanta residents to network on the role sports leaders play in diversity, have become an annual participant in the city’s PRIDE Parade and were one of the first NBA teams to build a sensory-inclusive room inside of their venue.
With a commitment to providing safe spaces and services for under-resourced communities, the franchise has increased its commitment to community programming by enhancing current programs, partnerships and donations with a minimum of $14 million over the next decade. State Farm, the naming rights partner of the arena, will expand its Good Neighbor Club program, which transforms rooms in the recreation centers attached to renovated courts. The clubs serve as comprehensive learning and entertainment hubs for the community and are an extension of the team’s ongoing court renovation program to increase access to play throughout the Atlanta metro area.
The foundation also said that along with a commitment to providing safe spaces and services for under-resourced communities, the franchise has increased its commitment to community programming by enhancing current programs, partnerships and donations with a minimum of $14 million over the next decade. State Farm, the naming rights partner of the arena, will expand its Good Neighbor Club program, which transforms rooms in the recreation centers attached to renovated courts. The clubs serve as comprehensive learning and entertainment hubs for the community and are an extension of the team’s ongoing court renovation program to increase access to play throughout the Atlanta metro area.
Additionally, the Hawks work closely with Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the state of Georgia and the Atlanta Public School system to sponsor a number of programs that assist children and young adults with maintaining their physical activity level. The team supplied 500 branded basketball kits to Boys & Girls Clubs in-state when they launched their ‘Hawks at Home’ program during the summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This innovative online program provides unprecedented access to basketball instruction, health tips and education resources in a safe, fun and virtual environment. Just this month, the Hawks and APS partnered to provide a weekly Hawks at Home program as a resource for teachers, coaches and students that focuses on both health and wellness.
Cox Media Group