If you didn’t know that the 2020 ESPY Awards were Sunday night on ESPN, you probably weren’t alone. (We’ll soon find out what the ratings were for the event.)
The ESPYs are typically held during one of the slowest times on the sports calendar, the week of MLB’s All-Star break. But this year’s show was moved up to Father’s Day weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its shutdown of the sports world. And as a result, there were no live festivities associated with the event such as a red carpet entrance for athletes and celebrities or a crowd in attendance.
While there were still awards handed out, the 2020 ESPYs emphasized social achievement rather than athletic feats. That was best typified by the introduction to the show hosted by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, OL Reign and U.S. Women’s National Team winger Megan Rapinoe, and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.
— ESPN (@espn) June 22, 2020
The intro featured legendary and important Black men and women in sports history such as Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, and Muhammad Ali, and Serena Williams. Wilson then turned the introduction to the Black Lives Matter movement and recent victims of racist violence such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
“Our country’s work isn’t anywhere close to done,” Wilson said, calling on his white teammates to listen and help.
“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, from their destiny.”
Later in the program, another video package honoring victims of racist violence and police brutality was introduced by Malcolm Jenkins, co-founder of the Players’ Coalition and an outspoken activist for racial equality and social justice. The video was produced by Jenkins’ company, Listen Up Media:
"This is the tipping point. There's no going back. There's no inching forward. The time is now."
Stars from the sports and entertainment worlds say it's time to step up and do their part to make this country better. pic.twitter.com/Fttyl8to0v
— ESPN (@espn) June 22, 2020
“I remember feeling hurt and defeated, confused about what I wanted to do next,” Jenkins said. “And then something happened. I tuned to the ESPYs and saw Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Chris Paul take the stage.”
Jenkins was referring to the 2016 ESPY Awards during which the quartet of NBA stars spoke out against violence which had taken the lives of young Black men like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile.
“This is the tipping point,” Jenkins added. “There is no going back, there is no inching forward. The time is now. As of June 21, none of the three police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor have been arrested.”
The video also showed disturbing incidents of police violence against Black women. Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell was among the Black athletes appealing to white athletes and celebrities to help. White sports figures appearing in the video after Mitchell’s plea included Diana Taurasi, Zach and Julie Ertz, Breanna Stewart, Steve Kerr, Kyle Shanahan, Chris Long, and Mark Cuban.
Additionally, Kobe Bryant was honored during the show with a tribute by Snoop Dogg:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 22, 2020
Awards were still handed out during Sunday night’s ESPYs. The winners included:
- Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award – Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
- Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year – Los Angeles Dodgers
- Can’t-Stop-Watching Moment – Thomas “Snacks” Lee, Jackson State (basketball)
- Arthur Ashe Courage Award – Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Jimmy V Award for Perseverance – Taquarius Wair, Mesabi Range College (football)
- Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Awards – Maryam Shojaei, the Tyler Hilinski family, WNBA and WNBA Players’ Association