Last night (June 21), the 2020 ESPY Awards began on a note of reform. The virtual ceremony was co-hosted by Russell Wilson, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, who named victims of police brutality and racial injustice like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery as they pledged their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Those were George Floyd’s last words,” Wilson began. “Ahmaud Arbery was just going out for a run. He never came home. Breonna Taylor was at home in bed.”
“Our country’s work is not anywhere close to done. We need justice. We need true leadership. We need a change, and we need it now,” the Seattle Seahawks quarterback continued.
“I look at my children and I pray for a better future. A world where the color of their brown skin doesn’t stop them from their calling, from their purpose, from their destiny. I pray for a world where I don’t have to fear for my children due to systemic racism from hundreds of years of oppression. The only thing that must die is racism. Black lives matter.”
“So where do we go from here?” Wilson asked. “As millions of people of all colors protest, I see a world of hurt, pain and despair. But 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.”
While many sports fans have been anxiously anticipating the return of sports due to COVID-19, soccer player Rapinoe and WNBA athlete Bird stressed that the return of sports would not mean returning to “business as usual.”
“It’s important that we keep this dialogue going and this energy alive because for centuries there have been fights for justice and equality in this country led by Black people,” Rapinoe said. “This movement is no different, but as white people, this is the breaking point. This time, we’ve got to have their backs.”
“Trust us, we know that sports are important. It’s why we’re gathered here tonight,” Bird added. “But do Black lives matter to you when they’re not throwing touchdowns, grabbing rebounds, serving aces?”
“Colin Kaepernick never shied away. He knew that discomfort was essential for liberation. Fighting the oppression against Black people is bigger than sports,” she continued. “…Our return must be part of the fight for justice.”
Watch a clip from the powerful speech on Twitter below.