Atlanta Hawks make pro sports history in deal with Black-owned banks

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks found their way into a record book of sorts on Thursday when they agreed to refinance their construction loan on the team’s practice facility with a group of Black-owned banks.

The $35 million loan marks the first time a professional sports franchise has had a significant loan underwritten exclusively by Black banks.

The Hawks training and practice facility was built in the Brookhaven area and has been the team’s home since the fall of 2017.

“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,” said Hawks owner Tony Ressler.

[RELATED: Atlanta Hawks, foundation announce $40M investment in Black-owned businesses, community engagement]

“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,” Ressler added.

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The team says the deal was supported by the National Black Bank Foundation (NBBF) and the partnership led by Carver State Bank. The Hawks say the teams strong credit rating will help boost the capital cushion for the banks and help them better serve their customers.

“The Atlanta Hawks are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to being an ally of Black businesses, and Carver State Bank is proud to be the lead institution on this historic transaction. By selecting an all-Black bank syndicate to provide this financing, the Hawks are strengthening all of our banks,” said Carver Development President Robert James. James is also the Chairman of the NBBF.

Former NFL Safety and ESPN Football analyst Ryan Clark also serves on the NBBF board. Clark believes the move will do nothing but help the banks.

“The Hawks are not only the first-in-league with this deal, but are the first in all major league sports. “Banking Black is a simple but incredibly powerful demonstration of professional sports franchise’s commitment to their players and their fans. Now we need other teams to follow the Hawks’ lead,” said Clark.

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The National Black Banking Foundation says in many minority areas, Black banks are often the primary source of fair, non-predatory lending. The NBBF also says the amount of those banks has dropped by over 50% with only 18 Black-owned banks still in business according to the FDIC. They also say according to the Federal Reserve, 49% of Black households were unbanked or underbanked in 2019, compared to just 15% of white families.

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The Hawks and the Ressler-Gertz Family Foundation say they had previously announced $40 million worth of investments to help strengthen the economic empowerment of Black communities in the Atlanta area. They say it is part of their community, diversity and inclusion commitment to their home town.