22 June 2020

Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird and Russell Wilson call for racial equality as they host virtual ESPYs

US soccer star Megan Rapinoe, basketball player Sue Bird and American football star Russell Wilson all called for racial equality as they virtually hosted the ESPYs.

The three athletes all spoke at the ESPN sports awards about the recent Black Lives Matter protests which were sparked following the death of George Floyd.

Rapinoe, who took a knee in 2016 in solidarity with NFL’s Colin Kaepernick over racial inequality, specifically mentioned the star in her monologue.

She said: "Colin Kaepernick never shied away. He knew that discomfort was essential to liberation, and that fighting the oppression against black people is bigger than sports. 

“So will it be uncomfortable? Yes. In speaking up, will we make mistakes? Yes. [But] that cannot stop us from trying, and not just for a few days or for a few posts.”

And Bird added: "Trust us, we know that sports are important - it's why we're gathered here tonight. But do black lives matter to you when they're not throwing touchdowns, grabbing rebounds, serving aces?

“Our return must be part of the fight for justice.”

Wilson, with his wife Ciara, virtually hosted the ESPYs with Rapinoe and Bird (PA)

Russell celebrated famous athletes such as Serena Williams and Muhammed Ali for being trailblazers 

He said: "What if we didn't know their names? What if they were never a part of the conversation?

"There's also this conversation: 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe’ - those were George Floyd's last words. 

“Our country's work is not anywhere close to done. We need justice. We need true leadership. We need a change. We need it now.”

He added he feared for his children. He is expecting his second child with wife and singer Ciara, they already share three year-old daughter Sienna and Ciara’s six year-old son from a previous relationship.

“I look at my children and I pray for a better future. A world where the colour of their brown skin doesn't stop them from their calling, from their purpose and from their destiny,” he said.

"I pray for a world where I don't have to fear for my children from systemic racism due to hundreds of years of oppression."

The night also focused upon athletes the sporting world had lost in the last year. 

Snoop Dogg rapped a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant who was killed in a helicopter crash alongside his 13 year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in January.

And there were a whole host of winners.

Among them was boxer turned emergency healthcare worker Kim Clavel who won the Pat Tillman Award for Service.

Major League Baseball star Nelson Cruz claimed the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award for his work in his hometown in the Dominican Republic.

And Kevin Love received The Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for speaking about his mental health.

Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey virtually presented the award to Love.

He said: “[Love is] someone looks themselves in the mirror, accepts that everything is not perfect, and finds the strength to say that out to the world.”

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