2020 ESPYS: Athletes Remember George Floyd and More in Moving Black Lives Matter Segment
By Jennifer Drysdale
Kerem Yucel / AFP
Athletes are coming together to support the Black community in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism. In a powerful segment during the 2020 ESPY Awards, a number of sports stars and celebrities came together to address the modern civil rights movement happening across the country and in the memory of George Floyd.
"I don't know what more we as a sports community need to see than a white police officer kneeling on George Floyd's neck and ripping his life from him," Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad said. "Having to see that for eight minutes and 46 seconds was heart-wrenching."
Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, and his death sparked a wave of protests around the world.
"If you don't feel like this is your opportunity to speak up and be active and use your platforms, you are missing it. You are missing the point," NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace shared. "You are missing out on the opportunity to be on the right side of history."
New Orleans Saints star Malcolm Jenkins reflected on how the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile -- who were both killed by police on July 5 and then July 6, 2016 -- changed his life forever. He decided to dedicate himself to raising awareness and fighting for racial equality.
"History has shown us the impact that only a few voices can make," Jenkins shared. "Now it is time for all of us -- athletes, coaches, and media -- to do our part to make this country better."
Actor and activist Kendrick Sampson went on to declare, "Rubber bullets will not stop us. Batons will not silence us. Tear gas will not stop us. State violence will not send us back into our homes. We will not stop until we are free."
The emotional segment also paid tribute to the many other Black men and women who have been killed as a result of direct and systemic racism in recent years -- as well as images of violent and virulent racism that has faced Black men and women in America throughout the nation's history.
"This is the tipping point. There's no going back. There's no inching forward. The time is now."
Stars from the sports and entertainment worlds say it's time to step up and do their part to make this country better. pic.twitter.com/Fttyl8to0v
The awards ceremony, which was held remotely this year due the coronavirus pandemic, featured athletes from the NBA, NFL and other professional sports leagues making appearances from their homes.
Among the athletes who have been most vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement is LeBron James. The Los Angeles Lakers star called out Drew Brees earlier this month after the NFL player said he disagreed with kneeling during the national anthem.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," the football star said, noting that his two grandfathers fought for the country during World War II. "That brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed."
James responded, "WOW MAN!! 🤦🏾♂️. Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don't understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of [the American flag] and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free."
"My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country," James continued. "I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong!"
Brees later apologized for his remarks in a lengthy Instagram message, saying his comments "lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy."
"I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused," he wrote. "In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country."
Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe and Russell Wilson served as hosts at the 2020 ESPYS, which honored Mesabi Range College running back Taquarius Wair with this year's Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Canadian boxer Kim Clavel was the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service.