MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The sports world had its sights on Memphis on Monday, as the Grizzlies hosted their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day symposium and celebration before their game against New Orleans.
It's different than every other home game, but the matchup with the Pelicans almost takes a backseat to pregame festivities.
The Grizzlies are hosting icons from across the sports world and shining a light on the Civil Rights Movement, past and present.
With ages ranging from their late-30s to their mid-60s, the 2020 Civil Rights Award recipients recounted their earliest memories of Dr. King, explaining the effect he had and the lessons they’ve taken from his legacy.
This year’s class of honorees for the 15th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award include WNBA great Sheryl Swoopes, former NFL quarterback Doug Williams, NBA great Robert Parish and former NBA star Caron Butler.
"You treat people the way you want to be treated, but also my message to our African-American youth is, be proud of who you are," Swoopes said.
"People understood what he was fighting for, the injustice of so many people," Williams said. "For us to be sitting on this stage today is partially because Martin Luther King lived."
Despite a combined list of accomplishments that rival any in the athletic world, this year’s Civil Rights Symposium panel described the shock and honor of being mentioned in the same breath as Dr. King.
"We all made sacrifices to be the best that we could be in our field, but to me, that’s not a real sacrifice," Swoopes said. "What Doctor King did was a real sacrifice."
The 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration featured the message, "Remember, celebrate, act." It honored prior accomplishments while pressing for further progress, both as a society and individuals.
"If you see something wrong, say something," Swoopes said. "If you want something to be better, you have to go and you have to make a difference. You have to be a part of it."
"You gotta believe, you gotta be focused, and you gotta be dedicated to whatever it is you want to be," Parish said.
The Grizzlies lost to the Pelicans 126-116 on Monday.