ESPYs: Black Athletes Call on Sports Stars to "Use Your Platform" to Address Racism

Screenshot/Courtesy of ESPN

ESPN's show addressed George Floyd's and Breonna Taylor's deaths by police as a slew of Black athletes called "on our white counterparts to use their voices and talk about real change and how they'll make it happen."

A slew of athletes and stars made an appearance during a powerful segment on Sunday's ESPYs to address the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police and urge others to "use your platform" to address racism.

Super Bowl champion Malcolm Jenkins kicked off the segment talking about how the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — who were both shot and killed by police in 2016 — "changed my life."

"I remember feeling hurt and defeated, confused about what I wanted to do next," he said. "And then something happened." He said he tuned in to the ESPYs to see Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Paul take the stage. "They challenged athletes and entertainers to use their platform, to unify this country, but also call out social injustice. I remember feeling so inspired and motivated, the next day I jumped into action. Unfortunately, only a fraction of us answered that call."

He noted that "now is the time for all of us — athletes, coaches and media — to do our part to make this country better."

NASCAR champion Bubba Wallace added: "If you don't feel like this is your opportunity to speak up and be active and use your platform, then you're missing it. You're missing the point. You're missing out on the opportunity to be on the right side of history."

Olympic fencing medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad also made an appearance, saying: "I don't know what more we as a sports community needs to see than a white police officer kneeling on George Floyd's neck and ripping his life from him. And having to see that for eight minutes and 46 seconds was heart-wrenching." 

NBA star Donovan Mitchell added: "While the murder of George Floyd was at the center of everyone's attention, too often we forget about black women like Breonna Taylor." The Louisville-based first-responder was shot and killed in her home by police in March, two months before Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

Muhammad, who also is known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics, shared her own experience being discriminated "not only as a woman, and not only as a Black woman, but also as a Black Muslim woman."

"We need commitment to real change," Wallace said, while Mitchell added: "Now, we call on our white counterparts to use their voices and talk about real change and how they'll make it happen."

A slew of white athletes and sports figures, including Marc Cuban and Lindsay Vonn, appeared, pledging to fight for several initiatives, including fighting for accessible health care, advocating for measures to encourage voting, educating people that kneeling during the National Anthem is not about disrespecting the flag or the people who serve the country, advocating for public school funding based on need and not ZIP code, and "dismantl[ing] systemic racism ... that Black Americans have faced for over 200 years."

Jenkins ended the segment by saying: "This is the tipping point. There's no going back. There's no inching forward. The time is now."

Watch the segment below.

Incidentally, less than an hour after the segment aired, NASCAR said it found a noose was hanging in Wallace's garage Sunday night at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Wallace said in a tweet that the "despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how persistent we must be in the fight against racism." Read his full response below.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ESPYs had a revamped format and focus this year. Instead of honoring the past year's top athletes and moments in sports, the show's producers decided to forgo nominations and instead celebrating heroism and humanitarian aid. Among the honors handed out was the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year in recognition of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.