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On the Hardwood: Atlanta Hawks Honor Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in First of Season-Long Unity Nights'

19/01/2021

On the Hardwood: Atlanta Hawks Honor Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in First of Season-Long Unity Nights' These theme nights are centered around community, positive social change By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Monday, January 18, 2021 - 9:00 am

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The doldrums of 2020 may be in the past, but 2021 is still presenting challenges to in-venue production teams. Now out of the Orlando bubble, NBA organizations are hosting games in their home arenas and navigating the continuing difficulties of the pandemic. Like SVG's At the Ballpark and On the Gridiron series, On the Hardwood will take a look the hardships, creative ideas, and teamwork of NBA franchises.

The Hawks have ramped up their videoboard content since the start of the season.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s passion for Civil Rights and racial equality has become a beacon of perseverance and hope around the world, but in Atlanta, he means so much more than that. The Atlanta Hawks are celebrating MLK Day with the first of many Unity Nights that spotlight the true meaning of community, love of thy neighbor, and the character of the city's most venerated icon.

This year's MLK game will be celebrated differently at State Farm Arena due to the COVID world we're all living in, but because of the MLK jersey and court, we feel like this is the most meaningful tribute to his honor that we've ever done here in Atlanta, says Joe Abercrombie, SVP, live entertainment and production, Atlanta Hawks. It's truly something special, and we can't wait for our fans and the nation to see both in action.

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Celebrating the City's Roots: Unity Nights To Feature MLK-Themed Content Martin Luther King Jr. is always on the mind of the citizens of Atlanta, but the Hawks made it a point to highlight the activist's impact on the city during the offseason. When the team unveiled its new MLK City Edition uniforms, it was the first time that an individual's initials were stitched on an official on-court jersey. As the team debuts these uniforms, the production team is taking this theme an extra step further by placing MLK at the center of tonight's MLK Day Game Presented by Chase.

We'll have a special MLK open video that we'll use, says Drew Frank, manager, game operations, Atlanta Hawks. During each of these different games, we'll have some vignettes where the players will talk about MLK's impact on them personally and also on the world.

Plexiglass dividers have been installed in the control room.

Producing these live and prepackaged segments have come with its fair share of challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to restrictions on who is allowed into the building - full-time staff and friends/family of players are permitted - the crew is getting creative by capturing some of these traditions digitally, including the singing of the National Anthem and starting lineup by a choir.

In a COVID world, we're trying to adjust while maintaining some of the same traditions that we've done in the past, says Andre Hickman, director of live programming, Atlanta Hawks. In the past, they've rehearsed the players' names since we normally don't get the starting lineup until 15 minutes before the game. This year, we'll record them saying their names, and when we get the starting lineup, we'll take clips and marry them in real time to the music that's playing in the background. This is the first time that we'll doing it in this manner, but we have a plan to executing this correctly.

Aside from these production staples, the in-venue experience and content shown on the linear broadcast is drawing inspiration from the City Edition jerseys and court. Developed by Vice President of Brand Creative Shirley Zhang and her team, the stained-glass illustrated on both the jersey and court will lead the aesthetic look of the on-air and videoboard content.

The design of the court and uniforms are really instrumental to how we're framing our look and feel for these Unity Night games, continues Hickman. We're taking those elements of stained-glass and the MLK lettering to bring the arena to life.

At-Home Connection: Franchise Aims to Produce Pregame Live Stream KK Salmonsen (left) and a fellow operator handle crowd noise.

While at home, the Hawks made an effort to interact with their fans during the 2020 NBA Draft with a live streamed virtual Draft party back in November. Since these fans are still watching games on their television sets, the organization is looking to up this connection by continuously working with their television partners, including Fox Sports Southeast, and digital team to live stream a pregame show from the arena.

For a long time, the NBA has said that teams can do some pregame live streaming while the players are on the court, says Abercrombie. We've wanted to take advantage of that for a while, and I think this is the opportunity to do it.

Along with the videoboard show and surrounding content, this live stream could be another chance to spread the message of MLK and highlight the jerseys that the players are wearing on the floor. With fans stuck in their living rooms, it could also be used to bring the complete fan experience back home since they're deprived of those pregame festivities.

We'll be able to focus [the pregame] around our Unity Nights with the MLK jerseys and court, he adds. I don't think that we're going to be doing a lot of in-game live streams, but as far as a pregame show, we are definitely working towards doing that.

In-Venue Audio: Developing the Fabricated Soundscape Frank, in the Hawks mask, works from his courtside position.
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2021/01/18/on-the-hardwood-atlanta-hawks-h...
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