Athletes are courageously using their influence to identify and cure racial injustices of America. The recent shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas, TX police officers have affected several members of the sports world.
Athletes have recently decided to speak on the violence, even during the week of the ESPY Awards, a time of recognition for pro and amateur athletes.
“These guys now, they travel from coast-to-coast helping each other out with their different charitable foundations,” said former New England Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown. “Their games are so visible and their faces are so noticeable.”
At the beginning of the ESPY Awards, NBA All-Stars Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James made a statement, encouraging people to stop gun violence.
“We cannot ignore the realities of the current state of America,” said Anthony. “The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust, and anger that plague so many of us.”
On July 12, Paul received the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award for the efforts of the Chris Paul Family Foundation to help marginalized communities and the Nathaniel Jones Scholarship Fund.
“We stand here tonight accepting our role in uniting communities to be the change we need to see,” he said to the crowd at the ESPYS. “Generations ago, legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali…Aurther Ashe and countless others, they set a model on what athletes should stand for, so we choose to follow in their footsteps.”
The University of Missouri football team was also honored with the Stuart Scott Enspire Award for their boycott to stop extreme racial tensions on the campus.
“It’s imperative for athletes to understand that their resources are far more invaluable than our resources, the average everyday citizen,” said ESPN broadcaster Cari Champion on the Sports Humanitarian of the Year red carpet. “They have to give back, they have to speak out. To whom much is given, much is required; I believe that with all of my heart.”
The ESPYS continued to address the gun violence by awarding late high school football player Zaevion Dobson with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Dodson was killed last December while shielding two female friends from gunfire.
“All the athletes in this room — you have a lot of power. People look up to you. I know Zaevion did,” said Dobson’s mother, Zenobia after accepting the award on his behalf. “I urge you to think tonight about why he died and what you can do tomorrow to prevent the next innocent young man or woman from being lost as well.”
The stances that athletes have taken have been treated with admiration, but have also been treated with disapproval.
In their July 6 game against the Dallas Wings, the Minnesota Lynx wore black warm-up shirts that stated “The change starts with us—Justice and Accountability” on the front and referred to the victims on the back. Team captains remarked on the violent events during a pregame press conference.
The shirts offended four off-duty police officers who were working as security guards at the game and they walked off the job.
The New York Liberty also wore black warmup shirts on July 10 with #BlackLives Matter and #Dallas5 on the front and a blank hashtag on the back. The Liberty will continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement by wearing black t-shirts, but they decided to go without the hashtags.
Tragedy and accolades have caused athletes to point out the disparities that continue to haunt America.