Los Angeles, CA. — The opening segment of the 2016 Espy Awards kicked off with New York Knicks forward, Carmelo Anthony, NBA Champ & Finals MVP LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul opening with a call to action regarding police reform and gun violence, Wednesday night.
The NBA superstars took the stage together at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California to denounce the rampant police brutality in Black communities at the 2016 ESPYs. The pro-ballers addressed the viral videos from last week depicting Louisiana man Alton Sterling and Minnesota’s Philando Castile being killed by cops during arrests.
“The system is broken, the problems are not new, the violence is not new, and the racial divide definitely is not new, but the urgency for change is definitely at an all-time high,” the New York Knick’s Carmelo Anthony opens.
Then Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard Chris Paul reminds the audience that activism and sports has always gone hand-in-hand.
“Generations ago, legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and countless others, they set a model for what athletes should stand for,” Paul says. “So we choose to follow in their footsteps.”
The newest member of the Chicago Bulls, Dwayne Wade, demands change:
“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. The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention Orlando, it has to stop. Enough. Enough is enough.”
King James who led The Cav’s to the city of Cleveland’s first championship since 1964, was the last of the four friends to speak. Each has decried the country’s recent history of police violence toward African-Americans in their own way in the past, and their speech Wednesday was tilted far more toward decrying the killing of blacks. But they also took great care to denounce the killing of police officers and called for retaliatory shootings to stop.
“Tonight we’re honoring Muhammad Ali, the GOAT (greatest of all time),” James adds. “But to do his legacy any justice, let’s use this moment as a call to action to all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence and, most importantly, go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. We all have to do better.”
CP3, the self-proclaimed “nephew of a police officer,” listed the names of several victims among the high-profile killings of blacks at the hands at the hands of police, including Tamir Rice, the 14-year-old boy who was shot by Cleveland police in 2014.
LeBron who has led protests of Martin’s death and of Eric Garner’s death by choking at the hands of New York police, was criticized by some for saying little of Rice’s death, even though it was in his home community in Cleveland.
James took to Twitter last week to decry not only the shooting deaths of African-Americans Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, but the Dallas cops as well. He said on Wednesday: “We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. We do.
“That’s not acceptable,” James said. “It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: What are we doing to create change?”
While it wasn’t clear who among James, Anthony, Wade, and Paul brought the others together to take such a stand at the ESPYS. The group did, however, approach ESPN with the idea and ask if it could open the show that way.
The ESPYS are an Oscars-like sports awards show, hosted this year by pro wrestler John Cena. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers were nominated for seven awards and the Cavs won for best sports moment — when they broke the city’s 52-year championship drought by beating the Golden State Warriors in the Finals in June.
The first award winner of the night, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, thanked James, Wade, Paul, and Anthony for their speech.
The NBA superstars’ stand comes on the same day Anthony published an essay for the U.K. newspaper the Guardian. In his essay, Anthony expressed his concern with recent events and seemed to be gearing up to use his Olympic platform in Rio de Janeiro as a stage to discuss police brutality and racial tension in America.