Dressed in black tuxedos, James and fellow basketball stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade mentioned the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando in May, as well as last week’s fatal shootings of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota and the five law enforcement officers who were shot and killed in Dallas.
The four urged their peers to promote social change, too, citing several high-profile athletes in the past who were also outspoken activists.
“Generations ago, legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson,Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and countless others, they set a model for what athletes should stand for," Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers said. "So we choose to follow in their footsteps."
Their message was candid and forthright, more so than an Instagrampost. But it was still carefully planned and crafted. The four men had approached ESPN about opening the awards show with this statement.