Election Day is next week, and the Atlanta Hawks are making sure everyone in the area gets their voices heard. The team has turned their home court, State Farm Arena, into a giant voting site where people can vote early. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin talked about the process of making State Farm Arena a voting site on The Journal podcast (from The Wall Street Journal and Gimlet) and revealed where he got the idea.
"Our building, it's located in downtown Atlanta. We're connected to CNN Center," Koonin said. "And that is ground zero for protests. And so in watching the huge amount of people who came out to protest, I was blown away with the energy and the enthusiasm. And what the protesters wanted, which distilled down, was change. Change in policing. Change in policies. Change in the country. And equality. But...personally, I believe that while protest is fantastic, it's not an action that normally leads to an action. And I think the best action is voting. But, voting has always been difficult in Georgia. It's always been a very difficult thing. So it kind of struck me that our giant arena in the shadow of these protests are sitting empty."
Koonin was referring to the George Floyd protests that occurred during the summer. The Hawks want everyone to have their voices heard, but Koonin states the team is not taking a political position by turning the area into a voting site.
"Our building is owned by the taxpayers of Atlanta," Koonin stated. It's their building. We just run the building. So allowing the people who paid for the building back into their building to do their civic duty just feels like coming full circle. I think some folks would like to paint it that way, that, oh, you know, underrepresented audiences will be coming to the arena."
This is the final week people from Georgia can vote early at State Farm Arena, and it will not serve as a voting location on Election Day. State Farm Arena is one of the many NBA facilities being used for the 2020 election. "This isn't about one side or the other," Koonin stated. "This is agnostic, safe, effective voting...This is about a business being involved in civics."