NBA star Dwyane Wade believes he has an obligation to address the Black Lives Matter protests and the police shootings of African-American men.
At the start of the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, Wade joined with LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, and asserted, “The racial profiling has to stop.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of flack over the years—myself, LeBron, Chris and Melo—for being friends,” Wade said Thursday morning at the Variety-Sports Illustrated Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles. “We have a special connection and a special bond. And we’ve always said these words: It’s bigger than basketball for our friendship and our relationship, and you don’t know what that means until a moment like yesterday comes about. There’s been a lot of tragic incidents going on in the world that we all are affected by — everyone. We have a huge platform, and we felt upon ourselves to come together to figure out a way that we could use the power of our voices, the power of our faces to get behind what we all believe in. And that’s what we were able to do.”
Wade explained that the quartet reached out to ESPN and told the network that they wanted to “set the tone” for the show.
“We want kids to look up to us and see what we need to be as a culture, community and country,” Wade said. “It was great to be able to all speak from the heart and stand behind the cause. I think the day and age we’re in today, we can put things in our own words and our own voice. Having friends like LeBron, Carmelo and Chris Paul they are very confident and good in the sport so it allows all of us to be confident and stand behind it.”
Wade credited the late Muhammad Ali with serving as an inspiration to speak out on important issues.
“It wasn’t a message as us as athletes,” he added. “We finally can stand up and do what Ali and other greats did when they didn’t even have a platform.”
The keynote conversation at the summit included Wade’s CAA agent Lisa Joseph-Metelus and was moderated by Lee Jenkins, senior writer at Sports Illustrated.
With Dwyane, I’ve never had to push him to say anything,” Joseph-Metelus said. “The event last night was all on them. It was something they wanted to do. They took ownership of it. I just make sure that what they want to say is conveyed in the best way and when they work with ESPN that their voices aren’t taken away.”
Wade recently signed a two-year, $47.5 million deal with the Chicago Bulls after 12 seasons with the Miami Heat. He asserted Thursday that he had always wanted to play for his hometown team.
“I grew up a Bulls fan so when I put on the Bulls jersey – because I’m trying to get used to it as well – it probably rings a little bit different than to others,” he explained. “For me, as an athlete as someone who understands the business. I felt that this was the best decision for myself. It doesn’t take away those 13 years but it was the perfect time to play for my hometown team. It’s about doing something that I want to do and feel comfortable doing.”
Wade noted that he was nine years old when the Bulls won their first championship, led by Michael Jordan.
“I remember I felt so alive, with this pride for the city of Chicago,” he mused. “I think Michael Jordan’s rise to icon status went a little different than it does today. He really broke down barriers in the NBA and became a superstar that I don’t think the NBA had. I think it just happened out of nowhere.”
Wade also credited Magic Johnson with inspiring him to look beyond basketball to innovate himself, following surgeries in 2007.
“I remember after my surgeries lying in bed and thinking about my life and what I had done. And I wasn’t satisfied with what I had done. That’s when I got on the phone with my team and told them we needed to more.”
He recently co-hosted “Live With Kelly” and has his own production company, ZZ Prods. He and wife Gabrielle Union will flip houses together on an upcoming HGTV series.
“One thing I’ll say about him is that he’s special because he’s open,” Joseph-Metelus said. “You don’t find too many people who say I want to talk to Magic Johnson about business. He wanted to work and talk to people who have done it before him and I think that’s really rare for a person in his position.”
Asked about Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant’s free-agent signing with the Golden State Warriors, Wade said he was pleased. “Maybe I’m a little biased but I like that he made his choice,” he added.
Wade is a 12-time all-star and won three championships in Miami in 2006, 2012 and 2013. He admitted that it’s been awkward to leave the franchise following his signing with Chicago.
“They were playing tribute videos like it was the end of Dwyane Wade,” he mused. “It felt like I was dying. It was very uncomfortable to watch that. I already know what it’s going to be like when I’m no longer. What I was able to accomplish in Miami, to be part of their first, I will always be a Heat.”