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Hawks approve turning arena into massive Atlanta elections polling place

Philadelphia 76ers v Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23: An exterior shot of State Farm Arena before the Philadelphia 76ers game against the Atlanta Hawks on March 23, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The primary election earlier this month in Georgia was a mess, with long lines and a lack of polling places — particularly in primarily Black communities. Some people waited in line for more than four hours to vote.

The Atlanta Hawks want to do their part and started the process — approved this week — to turn its State Farm Arena into a massive polling place in the heart of the city for an Aug. 11 runoff election and early voting for the Nov. 3 general election. Atlanta native Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN has the story.

The idea was hatched during the weekend after the killing of George Floyd, when the focal point of protests in Atlanta was just outside the Hawks’ home arena. Conversations among Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, CEO Steve Koonin and majority owner Antony Ressler quickly coalesced around the idea of turning the playing floor into a voting location.

“We were casually brainstorming since our whole world turned about what we can do internally as an organization,” Pierce said. “We were trying to figure out how we can take care of home first, and [Koonin] pitched the idea.”

There are a lot of details to be worked out, including how many voting machines Fulton County will put in its new polling place, although the Hawks reportedly want and hope for several hundred machines to be in the facility.

Good on the Hawks — this is the kind of practical step the NBA and its teams need to take to help with real change and on social justice matters. Having players put a message on their jersey and writing Black Lives Matter on the court are good steps to keep the issue in front of people, but adding a much-needed polling place that can help people vote is the kind of concrete change the league needs more of.

This is not going to solve all the voting issues in Georgia, but it’s a step in the right direction.