Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James opened the 2016 ESPY Awards with a call for racial justice: “The urgency to change is at an all-time high … What are we doing to create change?”
The 2016 ESPY Awards opened with an important message.
Before WWE champion John Cena took the stage to host the annual sports awards, NBA superstars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James spoke directly to their fellow athletes to preempt the night of celebration.
“We cannot ignore the realities of the current state of America,” Anthony opened, listing off the injustice, distrust and anger the country has experienced in the last week from the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota to the attack in Dallas. “The system is broken.”
He continued, “The problems are not new. The violence is not new. And the racial divide is definitely not new. [But] the urgency to change is at an all-time high.”
Paul, who is the nephew of a police officer, listed the names of many black lives who have been lost — from Trayvon Martin to Alton Sterling — before naming of athletes like as Muhammad Ali who “set a model for what athletes should stand for.”
“The racial profiling has to stop. The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. But also, the retaliation has to stop,” said Wade. “The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas and Orlando — it has to stop. Enough. Enough is enough.”
Acknowledging feelings of helplessness and frustration over the violence, James closed out the introduction by saying: “It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: What are we doing to create change?”
Calling on his fellow athletes to do legacies like Ali’s justice, he implored the sports community to get educated, explore the issues and use their influence to renounce all violence.
“Let’s use this moment as a call to action,” he said. “We all have to do better.”
The 2016 ESPYs air live on ABC on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Follow along with THR‘s winners list as the show unfolds here.