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Carmelo Anthony, other NBA stars call for change at ESPYs: 'The system is broken'

Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony joined fellow NBA stars Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James onstage at Wednesday night's ESPY Awards, opening the show with a call for social change and justice.

"Good evening," said Anthony, a former Towson Catholic standout and current forward for the New York Knicks. He was dressed in an all-black suit. "Tonight is a celebration of sports, celebrating our accomplishments and our victories. But in this moment of celebration, we have to start the show tonight this way, the four of us talking to our fellow athletes with the country watching.

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"Because we cannot ignore the realities of the current state of America. The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust and anger that plague so many of us. The system is broken. 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."

Paul spoke next. He invoked names like Trayvon MartinEric Garner and, more recently, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. (Baltimore's Freddie Gray, who died last year after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody, was not mentioned). "This is also our reality," Paul said.

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The U.S. has selected its 12-player roster that will try to win the Americans' third straight Olympic basketball gold medal.

Wade said racial profiling and "not seeing the value of black and brown bodies," as well as relatiation to police violence, "has to stop." James urged other athletes to "educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence and, most importantly, go back to our communities."

Anthony's impassioned speech echoed a week of heightened activism. On Friday, after a sniper killed five police officers in Dallas, Anthony wrote in an Instagram post that protests must "steer our anger in the right direction."

"I'm calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge," he said. "Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There's NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can't worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE."

Earlier today, he expounded on those beliefs in an essay for The Guardian. "So what next?" he asked. "I don't have the answer. Nobody does. But what we can do is start bring a continuous awareness and keep this conversation going. We can't keep riding on this merry-go-round where tragedy happens, it's all over TV and social media, everybody talks about it, then in three and four days it's over with."

He also released the latest video in his "Stay Melo" video series with Vice Sports, in which he reflects on marching in Baltimore in protest of police treatment after Gray's death.

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