“The system is broken, the problems are not new, the violence is not new, and the racial divide is definitely is not new, but the urgency for change is definitely at an all-time high.”
– Carmelo Anthony
History happened at the ESPY awards on July 13, 2016. Not because a team won a record number of awards, or some athlete made a funny joke about another. Something significant happened.
Four high profile NBA athletes who refer to themselves as the brotherhood took the stage to open the 2016 ESPY awards, and not only did they open the show, they helped to open eyes. Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and Lebron James made their voices known and took a stand against the recent violence and unrest occurring in America and beyond. The players pleaded for change, challenging not only themselves, but their fellow athletes as well to take on the task of using their voices to help impact change in their communities.
They follow in the footsteps of socially influential athletes before them – the greats like Muhammed Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Jim Brown, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith. Ali and Abdul Jabar were two of the most prevalent names that took a stand against national injustice when they boycotted the Olympic Games in 1968 over similar civil rights tensions in American history. Carlos and Smith, on the other hand, competed in the Olympic Games and made a historic statement by raising their black glove covered fists in the air during the singing of the national anthem during the medal presentation of the 200 meter final.
These four athletes who took the stage are cognizant of the historical figures before them and tried to make a bold statement of their own on Wednesday night:
“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.”
The wrongful deaths of so many in this country – the deaths of men like Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the slain Dallas Police officers, and the Orlando Victims. Through their words, these four athletes made a bold statement: they could not sit back and watch the ruthless and unnecessary killing of innocent people anymore. They’re going to stand up and do their part to try to fix it.
These athletes are not personally affected by these issues: they have money, power, and status. They could easily remain silent on these issues and just focus on their own personal life styles – they certainly have the right to do so. As athletes, they are not obligated to take stands on societal issues: they are only obligated to play for their respective teams and maybe do a few press conferences along the way.
In the 1990s, Michael Jordan refused to endorse Harvey Grantt, a liberal Progressive Black Mayor of Charlotte, over Jesse Helms, a proponent of “Republican Rural Values and Antagonistic Ideas”. When asked to give his support, he simply replied “Republicans Wear Sneakers Too.” He would later regret that stance.
What is the excuse for the rest of us? Four NBA stars have all the reasons in the world to remain complacent as the violence intensifies. By speaking out, they put their endorsements, their image, their brands, and potentially millions of dollars on the line to try to bring about necessary changes.
Again, what is our excuse? Why can’t we do the same? It is time for every one of all ethnicities and all backgrounds to stand up for what is right – the protection of people’s lives. Mindsets need to be changed, resources need to be spread, influences need to be utilized and Laws need to be written. We need to come evolve from our close minded, biased, and selfish thinking, so we can emerge from these struggles and make a change.