article by Evan Grossman via nydailynews.com
No highlight, championship or individual accomplishment showcased during the 2016 ESPY Awards Wednesday night was more powerful than the show’s cold opening.
Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James teamed up for a moving call to action for other athletes to use their celebrity, influence and resources to make a difference in a divided America plagued by gun violence, injustice and racism.
Anthony turned to Instagram last week as the nation was torn by the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the retaliatory attack that led to the deaths of five Dallas police officers to urge others to inspire change. This week, he said he plans to use the Summer Olympics as another platform to spread his message, indicating he is not taking this lightly.
Reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s black athlete summit from the summer of 1967, Melo started the show on a moving note when he was joined by fellow NBA stars Paul, Wade and James in a three-and-a-half-minute speech that, because of its social significance, timeliness and let’s face it, the need right now for more thoughtful and serious social leadership, may have eclipsed the legendary Jimmy V speech as ESPN’s finest moment.
Below is the transcript of their speech.
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 reality 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.
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.
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.
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 a 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.