Four of the NBA’s top stars — including 2016 Finals MVP LeBron James — challenged their fellow sports stars on Wednesday to be more socially active in an emotional monologue to open the ESPY Awards, Think Progress reported.
“It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, What are we doing to make a change?” James said as he stood alongside Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade, pointing out that Muhammad Ali was set to be honored during the ceremony. “To do his legacy any justice, let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence.”
The group’s address was reportedly the players’ idea, which they took to the network before the broadcast. Anthony, who plays for the New York Knicks and made a similar appeal last week, said that athletes in their position could not “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 have plagued so many of us,” he 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.”
Paul, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, noted that his uncle is a police officer.
“But,” he added, “Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Laquon McDonald, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile. This is our reality. Generations ago, those like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and countless others set a model for what athletes should stand for, so we should follow in their footsteps.”
Watch their monologue, as aired on Wednesday, below.