2020 ESPYS: Russell Wilson, Megan Rapinoe & Sue Bird Address Black Lives Matter in Powerful Opening

(Robin Marchant, Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Russell Wilson, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird may not be in the same place -- due to social distancing -- but they kicked off this year's ESPYS together nonetheless. The trio of superstar athletes served up a powerful opening, championing the Black Lives Matter movement and its importance.

Wilson began Sunday's show reflecting on some of the greatest Black athletes in history, and how they are forever intertwined with the fabric of the fight for equality and civil rights -- including Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams and Bill Russell.

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"What if we didn't know their names? What if they were never a part of the conversation?" Wilson asked. "And there is also this conversation: 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe.'"

"Those were George Floyd's last words. Ahmaud Arbery was going out for a run and never came home. Breonna Taylor was at home in bed," Wilson continued. "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."

Wilson explained that, when he looks at his own children, he prays "for a better future, and a world where the color of their brown skin doesn't stop them from their calling, their purpose, their destiny."

"I pray for a world where I don't have to fear for my children due to systemic racism from hundreds years of oppression," he said. "The only thing that needs to die is racism. Black Lives Matter."

Rapinoe joined in next, explaining that it is "important that we keep this dialogue going and this energy alive," with regards to protests and demonstrations against racism and for equality.

"For centuries there have been fights for justice and equality in this country led by Black people. This movement is no different," she explained. "But as white people, this is the breaking point. This time we have to have their backs."

"Trust us, we know that sports are important," Bird shared, as she entered the opening presentation. "But do Black lives matter to you when they are not throwing touchdowns? Grabbing rebounds? Serving aces?"

"If that was uncomfortable to hear, good. I used to shy away from moments like this because it's convenient to be quiet, to be thought of as safe and polite," Bird continued. "This is our moment to prove we know a better world where Black lives are valued."

Bird and Rapinoe went on to explain that, while sports of all kind are starting to come back after the widespread coronavirus shutdowns, that shouldn't distract the world from the movement that has begun.

"Our return must be a part for the fight for justice," Bird shared. "Our return can't just be a return to business as usual. Our return is our turn to stand up for what's right."

The trio them welcomed everyone watching to this year's big show.

Wilson opened up in an interview with Good Morning America last week, where he confirmed the level of attention this year's show would give to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests being held across the globe for weeks. 

"It's a no-brainer for us to really emphasize the significance of what's going on around the world," Russell said.

As ESPN announced last week, this year's ESPYS will "highlight inspiring stories of service, perseverance, and courage in the face of this unprecedented health crisis." 

There will also be "a powerful segment from various athletes addressing the Black Lives Matter movement," as well as "a love letter to Kobe Bryant from the people of Los Angeles, featuring a performance by Snoop Dogg."

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