A Look Back: Sharecare, the Atlanta Hawks, and Pope Francis Honor MLK

On Martin Luther King Day in 2021, the Pope blessed an Atlanta Hawks Sharecare jersey designed to honor the civil rights leader’s legacy.

Pope Francis receiving MLK jersey

Updated on January 12, 2024.

More than 55 years since his passing, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words calling for civil rights and equality in the United States still resonate.

Each year, the U.S. celebrates Dr. King’s life on Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day, which falls on the third Monday in January. In 2021, Sharecare and its partners, including the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association (NBA), honored his legacy and achievements in a particularly meaningful way.

Pope Francis bestows his blessing

In November 2020, five NBA players and officials from the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican, located in the heart of Rome, to discuss issues of social injustice and economic inequality. The Pope, who is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, had expressed his concern about racial inequities that came to light in the U.S. that year following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The Pope wanted to learn more about the athletes’ activities and views involving the protests and demonstrations that had made news across the country.

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has sought to focus the church’s attention on addressing issues of social justice, such as poverty, migration, and equality. He has credited the teachings of Dr. King for their positive influence on social justice.

Following the meeting, the Hawks gifted the Pope a commemorative 2020-21 season MLK Nike City Edition jersey. The gift was a symbol of a shared commitment with the players to making positive change, as exemplified by the guiding principles of Dr. King’s legacy—social equality, economic empowerment, and love. In addition to honoring Dr. King, the jersey was personalized with “FRANCIS” and the number “1,” symbolically uniting the legacies of the two humanitarian leaders.

“On the day of the anniversary of Dr. King's birthday, thank you all for this tribute to MLK and for all the work you are doing,” Pope Francis said upon receiving and blessing the jersey.

More about the jersey

For the 2020-21 season, the Hawks committed to honoring the life and work of Atlanta-born Dr. King as a global icon and one of Atlanta’s favorite sons. As part of this effort, the Hawks joined the King Estate Foundation, NBA, NBPA, and Nike to release the 2020-21 MLK Nike City Edition uniform, with proceeds from jersey sales supporting programs that continue Dr. King’s work toward economic empowerment among communities of color.

The Sharecare patch, featured on the “heart” of each special-edition jersey, has been a symbol of the ongoing partnership to passion and pride for the legacy of Dr. King, whose life’s works paved the way for happier, healthier, and more equitable futures for everyone.

For years, Sharecare has been united with the Hawks under a movement to create positive change and to improve the well-being of people and their communities. Sharecare started its relationship with the Hawks as the team’s game jersey patch partner in 2017. Over the years, the Sharecare patch has appeared on the players’ shooting shirts, warmup jackets, and on the seat backs of the team bench. Sharecare has also sponsored the Sharecare Social, a premium club space of approximately 2,000 seats within Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, home to the Hawks.

The work and legacy continues

Sharecare’s vision is to help people live longer, healthier lives. Its mission is to bring the different dimensions of well-being—including social and community elements—together for people everywhere. In Atlanta and beyond, the company is proud to drive these positive changes through communities, which builds upon the important work of leaders like Dr. King to create greater futures for all.

“At Sharecare, we are driven by the philosophy that we are all together better,” says Sharecare president Dawn Whaley. “Now, more than ever, we must elevate the things—and people—that not only make us better versions of ourselves, but also unite us in the process.”

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