The Atlanta Hawks’ inaugural campaign to raise awareness to help defeat prostate cancer while raising funds to support life-saving research resulted in $150,000 donated to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). In recognition of Black History Month and to bring greater awareness of this disease to the African-American community, the team kicked off the Black History Month Assist Challenge in February, pledging to donate $250 per assist from the Hawks Foundation to PCF. With 295 assists during the month, the 8th most in the NBA during February, the team raised $73,750 from the Hawks Foundation. Tony Ressler, Jami Gertz and the Ressler family matched the team and contributed another $76,250 to reach a total of $150,000.
Life-saving information about risks and screening for this cancer that disproportionately affects African-American men reached approximately 120,000 Atlantans at State Farm Arena during Hawks home games in February and millions more through digital outreach efforts.
“We are deeply grateful to the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for their all-star efforts to engage their audience through basketball to address the real problem we face in the in this country of too many African-American men dying from prostate cancer,” said Jonathan W. Simons, MD, PCF’s president and CEO. “Lives will not only be saved through education and awareness created about the disease, but also through the Hawks’ generous contribution to science which will be utilized for projects directly related to addressing the issue of disparity in African-American prostate cancer.”
The Hawks are the first team in the NBA to partner with PCF to raise awareness through basketball about the disease that affects more than four million men in the U.S. and 14 million worldwide. With one in six men of African descent in the U.S. diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, it is imperative that everyone understand the risks, especially African-American men who are 76 percent more likely to be diagnosed, more than twice as likely to die, and are much more likely to develop aggressive forms of the disease than other ethnicities.
As part of the month-long campaign, Hawks Vice Chair of the Board and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Grant Hill and his father, NFL Legend Calvin Hill, filmed a special public service announcement that was aired throughout the month on various Hawks channels (link). Additionally, the public had access to educational resources via a custom website: Hawks.com/PCF.
PCF is currently funding more research related to understanding and solving disparities in African-American prostate cancer than any other time in its 25-year history. The Hawks’ significant donation will be added to the more than $10 million committed to research teams focused on understanding why African-American men are affected by prostate cancer disproportionately to other ethnicities and how to address this issue with treatments and cures.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among men in America and the fourth-most common tumor diagnosed worldwide. Despite its frequency, most men will not experience any symptoms. However, if the cancer is caught at its earliest stages, 99 percent of patients live five years or longer after diagnosis, which makes education so critically important.