Professional Athletes Are Speaking Out Right Now About Race in a Way That They Haven’t in Years

July 14th 2016

Lucy Tiven

NBA stars Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul opened Wednesday's ESPY awards ceremony with a powerful statement about race and police brutality in America. 

“We asked to start the show tonight this way,” Anthony said. “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 plagued so many of us.”

“Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop,” Wade said.

Wednesday's call to action echoes a pair of op-eds published by Anthony in the last week on his  personal website and in the Guardian, which addressed the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

In the Guardian, Anthony nodded to the history of athletes speaking up about race and injustice.


RIP Muhammad Ali

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He wrote:

"We all know our history, especially when it comes to sports and activism. We know Ali. We know Jim Brown. We know Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But over the years as athletes started making more money, they started thinking: I don’t want people to talk bad about me for talking politics. But this is not really about politics. There’s nothing political about taking a stand and speaking on what you believe in. The teams and the support systems around athletes urge them to stay away from politics, stay away from religion, stay away from this, stay away from that. But at certain times you’ve just got to put all of that aside and be a human being. That time is now."

"The system is Broken," Anthony wrote on his personal website. "Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system."

Anthony went on to condemn the Dallas shooting last Thursday. "Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work," he wrote. "While I don’t have a solution, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time." He encouraged his fellow athletes to "to step up and take charge," contact local officials, and use their voices to demand change.

"We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence," James said in his closing remarks. "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?’"