WATCH: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and More Open ESPYs With Anti-Violence Plea

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 14, 2016

It seems everywhere you look, gun and police violence are the primary topics of conversation. Last night’s (July 13) 2016 ESPY Awards ceremony was no exception. The sports-centered show opened with a somber entreaty from NBA stars Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) and Dwyane Wade (Chicago Bulls) to not “ignore the realities of the current state of America.” The Huffington Post reports that the four Black men presented the opening idea to ESPN, and the network agreed.

“The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, destruction and anger that plague so many of us,” Anthony said. “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 recited the names of many of the Black men who have been killed by the police, specifically: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile. He also said that he and the other men on the stage want to follow in the activist athlete footsteps of people like Tommie Smith and Muhammad Ali.

Wade also spoke directly to police violence, saying, “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.” And he reminded viewers that fighting for change isn’t convenient, but it is necessary.

James closed by issuing a challenge to the athletes in the room: “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,” said James, who won an award for male athlete of the year. “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.”

Watch the full presentation above.