Last week, in an incredibly powerful and passionate interview, Killer Mike hypothesized about the power of athletes to effect change in these times of turmoil, due to several killings of Black citizens by police officers. Seemingly hearing his call, tonight (June 13), LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, four of the NBA’s biggest stars, opened the ESPY’s, the biggest sports awards show of the year, united against police violence. Standing together, dressed in Black, each of the men spoke forcefully about the need for change and, specifically, for athletes to take a leading role in that endeavor.
In opening, Carmelo Anthony said “The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust and anger that plagues so many of us. 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 to create change is at an all-time high.”
Chris Paul followed acknowledging the duty of athletes to take a stake in these matters. “We stand here tonight accepting our role in uniting communities and to be the change we need to see,” said Paul, noting that he was the nephew of a police officer. Paul also spoke about the historical legacy of athletes serving as activists, saying “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, so we choose to follow in their footsteps.”
Wade spoke emphatically about steps that need to be taken, immediately. “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,” he said. He also put responsibility on the community, saying “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.” Wade also echoed Paul’s challenge to athletes to step up and lead.
LeBron James drove the point about the duty of athletes home, closing with “let’s use this moment as a call to action for 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.”