LOS ANGELES: Four NBA stars issued a plea for an end to the violence in America on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) with LeBron James calling on athletes in all sports to use their influence make their cities safer.
James delivered his message of hope at the opening of the annual ESPN awards show, taking the stage alongside fellow NBA players Dwyane Wade, of the Chicago Bulls, Chris Paul, of the Los Angeles Clippers and Carmelo Anthony, of the New York Knicks.
“Tonight we’re honoring Muhammad Ali, the GOAT (greatest of all time),” James said. “To do his legacy any justice, let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence.
“And most importantly, go back to our communities and invest our time our resources. Help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. We all have to do better.”
The NBA players were reacting as many Americans took to the streets in the past several weeks in a series of protests against police brutality and perceived racial bias.
Protesters were demanding answers over the killings of two black men by police in two days, Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana.
“It is time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves ‘what are we doing to create change?” James said at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
The killings of the two black men was followed the slaying of five police officers on Friday when gunman Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire during a protest rally in Dallas, Texas.
Wade said the shootings on both sides has to end, decrying not only the killing of black Americans but the retaliatory shootings of the police officers in Dallas.
“Racial profiling has to stop,” Wade said. “The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop. But also retaliation has to stop.
Endless gun violence
“The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, and not to mention Orlando. It has to stop, enough. Enough is enough.”
Anthony was the first to speak.
“We cannot ignore the realities of the current state of America,” said Anthony. “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 is definitely not new. But, the urgency for great change is at an all-time high.”
America’s gun obsessed culture is also partly to blame. Each year there are over 10,000 firearms related homicides in the US which has one of the highest gun-related murder rates in the world.
There are believed to be more guns than people in the US, an estimated 357 million compared with a population of 310 million.
Paul said he can see the issue from both sides as his uncle is a police officer. “We stand here tonight accepting our role in the communities to be the change we need to seek.”