For New York Knicks player Moe Harkless, wine has become more than a passion off the court: It's an opportunity to help the Black community. The NBA shooting guard told us today he has partnered with The Prisoner Wine Company to help raise awareness for racial justice and equality through his Black Lives Now initiative, which provides resources to support Black-owned wine companies, restaurants and businesses, along with ways to get politically involved.
Harkless got turned on to the Napa brand, which stands out with its art-inspired labels, right before the pandemic and has been familiarizing himself with the portfolio. Of the flagship Prisoner, Derange and Unshackled red blends, he said his favorite at the moment is Unshackled, a blend of Zinfandel, Malbec and other varieties that is the company's newest offering.
"After trying several of The Prisoner bottles, I really wanted to work with them, and when I found out they were committed to promoting philanthropic involvement in the community, I had to jump on it," Harkless told Unfiltered via email. (Read our Wine Talk with Harkless to find out more about how he became an enophile and what some of his other favorite California bottlings are.)
"We’re proud to bring The Prisoner Wine Company’s portfolio of wines into Moe’s circle of friends, family and fans, as well as to support his efforts in the Black Lives Matter movement," The Prisoner's director of winemaking, Chrissy Wittmann, told us via email. "I love how Moe's found our wines to be conversation starters because of their unique labels and styles. … By joining forces with Moe, we hope to raise awareness and drive change through his initiatives." Harkless, in turn, will be promoting the wines to help further the causes.
This is The Prisoner's first partnership with a professional athlete, and it's a fitting one, as justice is the inspiration for the original Prisoner wine's famous label. The sketch featured on the bottles is Spanish artist Francisco Goya's Le Petit Prisonnier, created as a visual protest against the injustice and brutality of the Spanish War of Independence.
Harkless launched his Black Lives Now initiative over the summer; it also aims to provide the Black community with access to mental health and educational resources, as well as boost music by Black artists. (Harkless himself created the playlists.)
For its part, Constellation Brands, The Prisoner’s parent company, committed in June to investing $100 million in Black- and minority-owned drinks businesses over the next decade, as well as donating $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative to end mass incarceration and racial inequality.
With The Prisoner's popularity and the NBA's growing wine team, Harkless sees a window to boost the initiative. "The main reason for wine taking off in the NBA is a combination of word of mouth and social media, putting a spotlight on it for everyone to see," Harkless said. "Whoever this partnership reaches or whatever comes out of it, there's going to be new eyes and ears. … It creates an opportunity to give back."
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