The trio of athletes matched in Black Lives Matter shirts on the show, with Wilson beginning with a powerful monologue.
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Russell Wilson, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird called for unity against racial injustice on Sundays ESPYs on ESPN.
The Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Olympic soccer standout and WNBA mainstay – who hosted the proceedings via remote stream – spoke about racial inequality and the need to turn things around amid the police killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the nationwide unrest that has manifested.
The trio of athletes matched in Black Lives Matter shirts on the show, with Wilson – who has been busy on a number of charitable fronts amid the social movement and ongoing coronavirus pandemic – beginning with a powerful monologue.
— ESPN (@espn) June 22, 2020
Speaking out: Russell Wilson, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird call for unity against racial injustice on Sundays ESPYs on ESPN
The Super Bowl champion hailed past trailblazers in sports including Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell and Serena Williams, asking, ‘What if we didn’t know their names? What if they were never a part of the conversation?
‘There’s also this conversation: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe” – those were George Floyd’s last words,’ he said. ‘Our country’s work is not anywhere close to done. We need justice. We need true leadership. We need a change. We need it now.’
Wilson’s expecting his second child with wife Ciara, as they’re parents to daughter, Sienna, three, and son Future Zahir, six, who Ciara shares with rapper Future.
‘I look at my children and I pray for a better future,’ he said. ‘A world where the color of their brown skin doesn’t stop them from their calling, from their purpose and from their destiny. I pray for a world where I don’t have to fear for my children from systemic racism due to hundreds of years of oppression.’
Ciara and Russell Wilson honor frontline workers and charities
The NFL superstar said that ‘the only thing that must die is racism: Black Lives Matter,’ while casting an eye to the future and what can be done.
‘So where do we go from here? As millions of people of all colors protest, I see a world of hurt, pain and despair. I also see a new generation. A generation that is calling out in desperate need for lasting change. To my white teammates and friends, we need you to lead, too. Don’t just listen – help.’
Rapinoe hailed quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his perseverance in the face of adversity.
‘Colin Kaepernick never shied away,’ she said. ‘He knew that discomfort was essential to liberation, and that fighting the oppression against Black people is bigger than sports. So will it be uncomfortable? Yes. In speaking up, will we make mistakes? Yes.’
She said ‘that cannot stop us from trying, and not just for a few days or for a few posts.’
Bird said of the movement: ‘Trust us, we know that sports are important – it’s why we’re gathered here tonight. But do black lives matter to you when they’re not throwing touchdowns, grabbing rebounds, serving aces?”
‘Our return must be part of the fight for justice.’
Others who appeared in support of the social movement included Olympian skier Lindsey Vonn, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Ciara and Russell Wilson donate a MILLION meals amid COVID-19
The broadcast also included a rap tribute from Snoop Dogg to his late friend Kobe Bryant, who was killed with daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others in January 26 helicopter crash in Calbasas, California.
Among the winners on the evening included Montreal boxer-turned-emergency healthcare worker Kim Clavel receiving The Pat Tillman Award for Service.
Veteran MLB slugger Nelson Cruz got the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award for his philanthropic efforts in his hometown, the Dominican Republic’s Las Matas de Santa Cruz.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 22, 2020
Kobe Bryant’s wife shares touching tribute to him and daughter
In accepting his award, Cruz, who’s currently on the Minnesota Twins, said, ‘From the bottom of my heart, my family, my foundation and my hometown, thank you.’
Kevin Love receiving The Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for his openness on mental health, with presenter Matthew McConaughey hailing the NBA veteran for ‘his guidance, his wisdom, his grace, and his courage’ in going public with personal details in an effort to help others.
Love is ‘someone looks themselves in the mirror, accepts that everything is not perfect, and finds the strength to say that out to the world,’ the Oscar winner said.
In his acceptance speech, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward said he accepted this award as both an honor and a challenge – a challenge to not only continue on my path, but to push beyond it and stay vocal even when silence feels safer.’