This year’s ESPY Awards had a decidedly different tone, because this is a decidedly different time in our lives. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have sparked massive global protests demanding equality and racial justice, while ending systemic racism and racism in general.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird and American football superstar Megan Rapinoe jointly hosted the ceremony, all wearing “Black Lives Matter” jerseys, and began the cold broadcast. with a call for unity against racial injustice. The video started with Wilson listing iconic and prominent black athletes like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Serena Williams, describing their impact on sports and their efforts to create social change.
Then the scene shifted to the aforementioned deaths of Floyd, Arbery, and Taylor, the names at the forefront of the protests you’re seeing right now.
“Our country’s work is not close to completion,” said Wilson. “We need justice. We need true leadership. We need a change. And we need it now. I look at my children and pray for a better future. A world where the color of their brown skin does not prevent them from their vocation, their purpose, their destiny. I pray for a world where I don’t have to fear for my children because of the systemic racism of hundreds of years of oppression. The only thing that must die is racism. Black lives matter.
“So where do we go from here? As millions of people of all colors protest, I see a world of pain, grief and despair. But I am also a new generation. A generation that calls the desperate need for lasting change. To my white colleagues and friends: we also need you to lead. Don’t just listen. Help. “
Next up was Rapinoe, who memorably knelt during the national anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick in 2016. US Soccer banned the act of kneeling during the anthem before revoking it earlier this month amid protests.
“It is important that we keep this dialogue and this energy alive,” Rapinoe said. “Because for centuries, there have been struggles for justice and equality in this country, led by black people.
“This move is no different, but as white people, this is the breaking point. This time, we have to support them. “
Finally it was Bird, who admitted that he “used to shy away” from these issues, but that is no longer the case.
Trust us, we know that sports are important. That is why we are gathered here tonight, ”Bird said. But do black lives matter to you when they’re not throwing touchdowns, catching rebounds, serving aces? If that was awkward to listen to, fine. He used to shy away from moments like this, because it is convenient to be calm, to be considered safe and polite. “
You can see the full video at the top of the page.