LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — LeBron James and fellow NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade opened the ESPY Awards with a plea to address racial profiling and end the nation’s spate of gun violence.
They stood on stage at the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday night and took turns commenting on what Anthony called “the realities of the current state of America.”
“The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust and anger that have plagued so many of us,” Anthony said. “The system is broken. The problems are not new, the violence is not new, the racial divide is definitely not new, but the urgency to create change is at an all-time high.”
Paul, nephew of a police officer, recited the names of several black men who have been killed, most by guns.
“Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile — this is also our reality. Generations ago legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Tommy 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,” the Clippers point guard said.
Wade said racial profiling and the “shoot to kill mentality” have 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 Orlando, it has to stop. Enough. Enough is enough,” Wade said. “Now as athletes it’s on us to challenge each other to do even more than what we already do in our own communities. And the conversation cannot, it cannot stop as our schedules get busy again. It won’t always be convenient, it won’t, it won’t always be comfortable, but it is necessary.”
“We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence,” James said. “It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing to create change?'”
James urged his fellow professional athletes to return to their communities and invest time and resources in helping rebuild them. He asked them to educate themselves and renounce violence.
“We all have to do better,” he said.
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