On a night when the sports world’s biggest names were honored, one ESPY winner became a poignant symbol of the night’s theme against gun violence and racial turmoil.
High school football player Zaevion Dobson, 15, was shot and killed while shielding 2 girls from bullets during a shootout in Knoxville, Tennessee, in December.
His mother, Zenobia, and his two brothers accepted The Arthur Ashe Courage Award on his behalf. The teenager is the youngest to receive the honor.
As she accepted her son's award, Zenobie said through tears: "I’m here to fight back. We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on families throughout America."
“I’m here to urge all of you to join the movement tonight to save innocent lives,” she continued. “We need to rewrite laws. To make it harder for the people to get guns. Some progress has been made, but just a few months ago in Tennessee, a law was passed to allow people to carry more guns on college campuses. What sense does that make? We need to go in the opposite direction.”
The teen's courageous story made it all the way to the desk of President Obama, who tweeted praise for young man when the incident occured.
"Zaevion Dobson... was a hero at 15. What's our excuse for not acting?" the president wrote soon after the high school sophomore's death.
Dobson was killed and the girls were unharmed when shooters "randomly fired multiple times" in Dobson's neighborhood December 17 during what police called a shooting spree across Knoxville.
"These cowardly and senseless acts of violence must stop," Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said at the time of the tragedy. "We should be preparing to celebrate the Christmas holiday, but now we have two men who are dead."
Dobson’s award came after NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron James pleaded to end gun violence and police brutality.