LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade on Wednesday teamed up to deliver a powerful speech during the 2016 ESPY Awards, in which they called for fellow athletes to use their fame to heal a country divided by racism, injustice and gun violence.
The NBA stars mention last week’s fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, which Anthony said had sparked “distrust” and “anger” in many Americans. James said it’s time to walk away from just feeling “frustrated” and start to help rebuild divided communities.
“Let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves,” James said. “Speak up. Use our influence. And renounce all violence.”
“We all have to do better,” James added.
Here are their remarks from the ESPY Awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles:
ANTHONY: Good evening. Tonight is a celebration of sports, celebrating our accomplishments and our victories. But, in this moment of celebration, we asked to start the show tonight this way — the four of us talking to our fellow athletes with the country watching. Because we cannot ignore 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 plague so many of us.
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.
PAUL: We stand here tonight, accepting our role in uniting communities, to be the change we need to see. We stand before you as fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, uncles — and in my case, as an African-American man and the nephew of a police officer, who is one of the hundreds of thousands of great officers serving this country.
But, 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 and Tommie 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.
WADE: 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. 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.
Now, as athletes, it’s on us to challenge each other to do even more than we already do in our own communities. And the conversation, 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.
JAMES: We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. We do. But that’s not acceptable. It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what are we doing to create change. It’s not about being a role model. It’s not about our responsibility to the tradition of activism.
I know tonight we’re honoring Muhammad Ali. The GOAT. But to do his legacy any justice, let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves. It’s for these issues. Speak up. Use our influence. And renounce all violence.
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. Thank you.