This year, the 2016 ESPYs opened on a somber note, with LeBron James and fellow NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade standing on stage while addressing the recent shootings of blacks by white police officers. Wade pleaded for a stop to racial profiling, and “not seeing the value of black and brown bodies.” James urged his fellow pros to renounce violence.
The NBA stars mention last week’s fatal police shootings of Alton Sterlingin Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, which Anthony said had sparked “distrust” and “anger” in many Americans. James said it’s time to walk away from just feeling “frustrated” and start to help rebuild divided communities.
“Let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves,” James said. “Speak up. Use our influence. And renounce all violence.”
“We all have to do better,” James added.
Below are their remarks:
ANTHONY: Good evening. Tonight is a celebration of sports, celebrating our accomplishments and our victories. But, in this moment of celebration, we asked to start the show tonight this way — 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 plague so many of us.
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: We stand here tonight, accepting our role in uniting communities, to be the change we need to see. We stand before you as fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, uncles — and in my case, as an African-American man and the nephew of a police officer, who is one of the hundreds of thousands of great officers serving this country.
But, Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Laquan McDonald. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. This is also our reality.
Generations ago, legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and countless others, they set a model for what athletes should stand for. So we choose to follow in their footsteps.
WADE: 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.
Now, as athletes, it’s on us to challenge each other to do even more than we already do in our own communities. And the conversation, it cannot stop as our schedules get busy again. It won’t always be convenient. It won’t. It won’t always be comfortable, but it is necessary.
JAMES: We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. 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. It’s not about being a role model. It’s not about our responsibility to the tradition of activism.
I know tonight we’re honoring Muhammad Ali. The GOAT. But to do his legacy any justice, let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves. It’s for these issues. Speak up. Use our influence. And renounce all violence.
And most importantly, go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.
We all have to do better. Thank you.
Below are the 2016 ESPY Winners
In addition to the reveal of winners in all nominated categories, the ESPYs honored Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach with the Icon Award. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also paid tribute to Muhammad Ali.
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE
Breanna Stewart (WINNER)
Elena Delle Donne
BEST CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMANCE
LeBron James – NBA Finals (WINNER)
Von Miller – Super Bowl
Carli Lloyd – World Cup Final
Sidney Crosby – Stanley Cup Playoffs
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE
Jake Arrieta (WINNER)
BEST RECORD-BREAKING PERFORMANCE
Stephen Curry – single season three-pointers made (WINNER)
Geno Auriemma – most NCAA basketball titles in D1 history (11)
Christian McCaffery – single season NCAAF all-purpose yards
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – NBA Finals Game 7 (WINNER)
Villanova vs. North Carolina – Men’s NCAA Basketball Final
Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers – NFL Divisional Round
BEST PLAY (16 NOMINEES VOTED BRACKET-STYLE)
Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary vs. 16. Crazy 66-yard Ole Miss’ TD (WINNER)
Kris Jenkins buzzer beater vs. 15. Connor McDavid goal
Michigan St punt block TD vs. 14. Stanford trick play w/ circus catch
LeBron Game 7 block vs. 13. Louis Oosthuizen hole-in-one off of ball
Steph Curry 38-foot game-winner vs. 12. Army softball player leaps over tag
Holly Holm knockout of Ronda Rousey vs. 11. Bartolo Colon first home run
Tiffany Howard HR robbery WCWS vs. 10. Josh Donaldson diving into stands
Jairo Samerio scores on scissor-kick ground vs. 9. Dele Alli juggling goal for Tottenham
Tyronn Lue – Cleveland Cavaliers (WINNER)
Ned Yost – Kansas City Royals
Geno Auriemma – UConn Huskies
Jay Wright – Villanova Wildcats
Nick Saban – Alabama Crimson Tide
BEST MLB PLAYER
Bryce Harper (WINNER)
BEST NHL PLAYER
Sidney Crosby (WINNER)
Kyle Busch (WINNER)
BEST WNBA PLAYER
Maya Moore (WINNER)
Elena Delle Donne
Conor McGregor (WINNER)
BEST MALE GOLFER
Jordan Spieth (WINNER)
BEST FEMALE GOLFER
Lydia Ko (WINNER)
BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER
Serena Williams (WINNER)
BEST MALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Buddy Hield (WINNER)
BEST FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Breanna Stewart (WINNER)
BEST MALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE
Ryan Dungey (WINNER)
BEST FEMALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE
Jamie Anderson (WINNER)
Mario Gutierrez (WINNER)
Irad Ortiz Jr.
BEST MALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Richard Browne (WINNER)
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Tatyana McFadden (WINNER)
Jason Belmonte (WINNER)
BEST MLS PLAYER
Sebastian Giovinco (WINNER)