Four of the biggest stars in the NBA teamed up in an unexpected way Wednesday night.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony took center stage at the ESPY’s (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards) in a unified effort to promote change and call for peace. The social commentary comes at a time in which tension between police forces and African-American communities continue to rise.
The four stars, who play for separate teams but are friends off the court, each spoke, calling for the end of violence against both African-Americans and those in uniform.
“The racial profiling has to stop,” Wade said. “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 in Orlando, it has to stop.”
The speech comes on the heels of media attention surrounding the deaths of two African-Americans in Louisiana and Minnesota caused by police officers as well as the shooting of five officers in Dallas, Texas.
Anthony called for his fellow athletes to be instruments of change.
“The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust, and anger that plague so many of us,” Anthony said. “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.”
Athletes have long used their influence to promote change. Paul pointed to the example set by famous athletes of the past in speaking out on social issues.
“Generations ago, legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and countless others set a model for what athletes should stand for,” Paul said.
James commented on how he and his fellow athletes could use their influence for the good of the country and their individual communities. Change starts with each individual, he explained.
“We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. We do. But that’s not acceptable,” James said. “It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘what are we doing to create change?’ 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.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar, known for commenting on various social issues during his NBA career, continued with a call to action to everyone present.
“And most importantly, [let’s] go back to our communities invest our time, our resources and help rebuild them. Help strengthen them. Help change them. We all have to do better.”
The speech, which kicked off the award show and was applauded by many for its call for peace amid protests and violence.