Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson kicked off Sunday’s ESPY awards with a moving speech on racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Russell was joined by Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe in calling for change amid ongoing protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
— ESPN (@espn) June 22, 2020
The 31-year-old first honored African American sports legends Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, and Serena Williams’ contributions to both their individual sports and to social equality.
“Jackie, Bill, Ali, Serena,” Russell began, later saying “Serena Williams has spent her life dominating. But it is her courage to speak against inequality and racism that cemented her as a voice of her generation. But what if we didn’t know their names? What if they were never a part of the conversation?”
“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. 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.
“The only thing that must die is racism,” Russell concluded. “Black lives matter. So where do we go from here? 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.”
The athlete also implored white allies to join the fight.
“To my white teammates and friends, we need you to lead, too. Don’t just listen. Help.”
US soccer star Megan Rapinoe echoed Wilson’s thoughts, adding, “For centuries, there have been fights for justice and equality in this country, led by Black people. This movement is no different, but as white people, this is the breaking point. This time, we’ve got to have their backs.”
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