The ESPYs are typically a special program focused on honoring the greatest accomplishments of athletes and teams, but the 2016 ESPYS ceremony began with a public address about one of the most important social issues of today.
Four NBA superstars — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul — started the 2016 ESPYs broadcast with a special plea to end the gun violence and racial injustice in policing.
"The 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, the retaliation has to stop. The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention Orlando, it has to stop. Enough. Enough is enough."
According to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, there are 91 gun fatalities every day in the United States. The issue is especially significant in the African American community because, according to the fund's research, black men are 10 times more likely to be murdered by guns than white men are.
"The system is broken," Anthony said. "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."
An ABC News correspondent reported that the network did not originally plan to open the ESPYs with this call to action, but the four players requested that they do so.
Paul invoked the activism of former athletes who fought for social change.
"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 said. "So we choose to follow in their footsteps."
James concluded the call for action at the ESPYs by pleading with his fellow athletes to step up and make a difference in their communities.
"We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence," James said. "But that's not acceptable. It's time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what are we doing to create change."
The four NBA stars received praise on social media for addressing this important issue.
In December, the NBA released a PSA calling for more gun safety. Paul and Anthony participated in the PSA.