Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James delivered a poignant and highly relevant message to the audience—and more specifically, their fellow athletes—last night during the opening of the 2016 ESPY Awards. All four men, who are some of the NBA’s most influential athletes, stood powerfully on the stage in solidarity, with Anthony opening the speech.
Anthony acknowledged that the night was one for celebration, but given the recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the Dallas police officers, he asked to start the awards show with a few minutes of reflection. “We cannot ignore the realities of the current state of America,” 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.”
Chris Paul, whose uncle is a police officer, listed out loud the names of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, bringing to light the ominous reality that too many black lives have unjustly been lost to police brutality.
Wade called for an end to “racial profiling,” “the shoot-to-kill mentality” and the “not seeing the value of black and brown bodies.” Equally, he said, the retaliation needs to stop, and he called on his fellow athletes to challenge each other to do more and use their influence for good.
“Tonight, we’re honoring Muhammad Ali, the GOAT,” James said, encouraging everyone to use the moment “as a call to action,” thereby doing justice to the late legend. James also called on athletes to go back to their communities to rebuild and strengthen them. “We all have to do better,” he said.
Watch the full opening to the 2016 ESPY Awards here, via ESPN.