Four of the most prominent players in the NBA opened ESPN's annual ESPY awards show on Wednesday with a powerful statement calling on athletes to do more to bring about justice and end violence in America.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul opened with a nearly four-minute introduction saying that athletes needed to recognize their privileged role in society to tackle the issues facing the country, as predecessors like Muhammad Ali (who was being honored at the show) had done.
"In this moment of celebration, we asked to start the show tonight this way," Anthony began. "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 urgency to create change is at an all-time high."
Paul cited Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by name as examples of the injustices plaguing the country.
"The racial profiling has to stop," Wade continued. "The shoot to kill mentality, has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop." He also killed out the "endless gun violence," calling out Chicago, Dallas and Orlando.
Finally, James called on athletes to work for change.
"Let's use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, renounce all violence, and most importantly, go back to our communities and invest our time and resources to strengthen and rebuild them," he said.
Watch the full video here:
Earlier this week, Anthony, who grew up in Baltimore and marched in protests against Freddie Gray's death, wrote a note on his Instagram page making largely the same point.
"I'm calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge," he wrote. "Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There's NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone."
Also this week, Kenny Smith, a former NBA player who now serves as an analyst for TNT, urged NBA players to donate 10% of their salaries to causes in their communities, and said he planned to create committees to help the athletes do so, the Charlotte Observer reported. Smith also called on athletes with sponsors to ask those sponsors to match contributions dollar for dollar, the Observer said.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.