-- NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony opened tonight's 2016 ESPYS on a somber note, acknowledging the recent police killings of two black men and the sniper attack in Dallas that left five police officers dead.
"We can't ignore the reality of the current state of America," Anthony said at the start of the ceremony -- an acronym for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award -- held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and hosted by John Cena. "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 definitely is not new. But the urgency to create change is at an all-time high."
The four NBA stars called for an end to police brutality and retaliatory violence, and encouraged their fellow athletes to use their influence for the greater good.
"We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. We do. But that's not acceptable," James said. "It's time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, 'what are we doing to create change?' Let's use this moment as call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence."
James continued, "And most importantly, go back to our communities invest our time, our resources and help rebuild them. Help strengthen them. Help change them. We all have to do better."
Paul acknowledged the recent fatal shootings by police of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, and said that he, Wade, James and Anthony wanted to follow in the footsteps of athletes like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali and affect change.
"Generations ago legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, and Tommy Smith, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, and countless others, they set a model for what athletes should stand for so we choose to follow in their footsteps," Paul said.
Wade also took on the heated topic of racial profiling head-on.
"The racial profiling has to stop," he said. "The shoot to kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop. But also the retaliation has to stop. The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention in Orlando, it has to stop.
Wade added, "Now, as athletes, it's on us to challenge each other to do even more than what we already do in our own communities and the conversation cannot, it cannot stop as our schedules get busy again. It's wont always be convenient it won't it won't always be comfortable but it is necessary."