Videos: Lebron James, NBA Stars Call For End To Gun Violence At The ESPYs
The ESPYs might not be regarded as the most relevant of awards shows. You might say it's a post-season gala for athletes to mingle and pose for photo-ops. And you might say it's a ratings-ploy on ABC's part.
But, on Monday, the ESPYs became a platform on which several top-billing athletes addressed the most pressing issues of our day, including racial profiling and gun violence, reports the Associated Press.
The show started off on a stark note. NBA stars Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade stood up on stage wearing dark black suits; perhaps a concerted choice to move away from some of the more colorful garb found at the ESPYs. Speaking individually, they each addressed the recent violence that has descended on the nation.
Anthony said that...
...we can not ignore the current state of America. The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust and anger that plague so many of us. The system is broken. The problem is not new. The violence is not new. And the racial divide is definitely not new.
Chris Paul mentioned that he's the nephew of a police officer. While he commended the "hundreds of thousands of great officers serving this country" he also said:
Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile. This is also our reality.
Wade called for an immediate end to acts of violence:
The racial profiling has to stop. The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop. But also the retaliation has to stop.
James took on a more scaled-down message, saying that change starts off as an individual effort:
It's time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, what are we doing to create change? ...
Go back to our communities. Invest our time, our resources. Help rebuild them. Help strengthen them.
The 3-minute opening speech was a precursor to the other topics touched upon later in the show. The Arthur Ashe Award for Courage went to 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson from Knoxville, Tennessee, reports the L.A. Times. Dobson, a high school football player, died last year after he'd jumped on top of three friends to protect them from gunfire. Police arrested a man who admitted to firing his gun at the scene, but it has not been concluded if he was the one who'd shot Dobson, reports ABC 6 in Tennessee. Abby Wambach, a living legend of the U.S. women's national soccer team, also took the stage to call for equal pay for female athletes. And basketball player Breanna Stewart, who won the "Best Female Athlete," echoed the call for equality as she accepted her award. "Equality for all takes each of us making an effort," said Stewart.
As noted by Paul, the calls to action owe a great deal to Muhammad Ali and other black athletes of the Civil Rights era. In the late 1960s, Ali met up other top, black athletes—including Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar— to talk about his conscientious objection to the Vietnam War. Ali wanted their support. Brown, Abdul-Jabbar, and others questioned Ali's motive—was he serious about his convictions, or was it all a lark? Eventually, the other athletes sided with Ali and announced their support for him. It was a watershed moment, and it set a pathway for future black athletes to use their star-power to address social issues.
Here are individual clips of James, Paul, Wade, and Anthony speaking at the ESPYs.