Pope Francis gives blessing to Atlanta Hawks' MLK jersey
Pope Francis attends a inter-religious ceremony for peace in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, in Rome Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 (AP / Gregorio Borgia)
TORONTO -- Pope Francis received a special gift from the Atlanta Hawks: a signature MLK basketball jersey, which he blessed on what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 92nd birthday.
The organization shared a video of the Pope receiving the gift of the jersey on Friday at the Vatican.
The jersey, which also bears the name Francis and the number 1, was signed and blessed by the Pope. Instead of the word “Hawk” the jersey reads the initials “MLK” across the chest.
The Pope has taken a special interest in the NBA’s social justice movement. In November, five NBA players were part of a delegation that travelled to the Vatican to discuss social justice, economic injustice and inequality issues in their communities.
The National Basketball Association Players Association said the players spoke about their “individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities.”
The jerseys were unveiled in Atlanta last fall, which honour the late civil rights icon who was assassinated in 1968.
It will be the first time the initials of an individual will be featured prominently on the chest on an official NBA game uniform, according to the organization.
The outfits will be worn for the first time on Monday when the team hosts its annual game on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday against the Timberwolves.
All profits from the jersey sales will go directly towards the Atlanta community.