Pope Francis blesses, signs his own custom Hawks 'MLK' City Edition jersey

Jack Baer
·2 min read

The Atlanta Hawks made waves when they unveiled their “MLK” City Edition uniforms, and the new threads are set to make their debut on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Monday.

To mark the occasion, the Hawks sought out a hallowed endorsement: Pope Francis.

The Hawks released a video Friday showing the pope receiving his very own custom “MLK” jersey. After quickly reading a letter from the team and showing off his jersey as if he just signed with the team, Francis gave the garment a quick blessing and appeared to sign it on the number.

The Hawks said the blessing was to honor their “shared commitment to making positive change in social equality, economic empowerment and love,” then linked out to the team’s store.

Per the Hawks’ site, proceeds from the MLK jerseys and other products will go to support economic empowerment programs for Atlanta’s communities of color.

The pope has spoken highly of King in the past, praising his nonviolent activism and discussing him in speeches in the U.S.

Pope talked with NBA players last year

Players with the Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors warm up before an annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day afternoon NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
The Hawks are making a big deal about their "MLK" uniforms. (AP Photo/John Amis)

This isn’t the first time the pope has crossed paths with the NBA, as he met with a delegation of players and union officials last November to discuss the league’s fighting for social justice. The pope’s office reportedly reached out to the NBPA to set up the meeting, which veteran Kyle Korver said was productive.

“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Korver said in an NBPA press release. “His openness and eagerness to discuss these issues was inspiring and a reminder that our work has had a global impact and must continue moving forward.”

The pope has had plenty of run-ins with other corners of the sports world as well, like receiving a Baltimore Ravens jersey signed by Lamar Jackson, accidentally thanking the Lord for the New Orleans Saints and stating that Lionel Messi is, in fact, not God.

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