ESPYS 2016 Crowd in Tears After Mother of Gun Violence Victim Speaks

Taking a stand. The mother of Zaevion Dobson — the Tennessee teenager who was shot and killed in December while protecting his friends — accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on his behalf at the 2016 ESPYs Wednesday, July 13.

During her emotional acceptance speech, Zenobia Dobson addressed the United States’ growing gun violence epidemic.

“I’m here to fight back,” she said. “We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on families throughout America. Oh, yes.”

As previously reported, Zaevion died December 17, 2015, at age 15 after he threw himself on top of two girls to shield them from gunfire in a Knoxville, Tennessee, neighborhood.

Before Zenobia took the stage with Zaevion’s two surviving brothers, ESPN played a moving video featuring Michael B. Jordan narrating the voice of the slain teen describing that fateful day in December, as imagined by writers.

Zenobia told the crowd that approximately four months after her son — who was an all-star high school football player — died, another relative was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Markastin Taylor, Zenobia Dobson and Zackelyn Dobson
Markastin Taylor, Zenobia Dobson and Zackelyn Dobson accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage on behalf of Zaevion Dobson onstage during the 2016 ESPYs at Microsoft Theater July 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

“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.”

“All of the athletes in this room ― you have a lot of power,” Zenobia added. “People look up to you. I know Zaevion did. I urge you to think tonight about why he died and what you can do tomorrow to prevent the next innocent man or woman from being lost as well.”

Zenobia’s ESPYs oration comes on the heels of the recent gun-related deaths of Falcon Heights, Minnesota’s Philando Castile and Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Alton Sterling. Both men were shot and killed by policeman in the past two weeks.

Then on Thursday, July 7, a sniper opened fire during a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in downtown Dallas, killing five police officers. According to the Los Angeles Times, 25-year-old suspect Micah Xavier Johnson — who was killed by a robot bomb during a standoff with police — told authorities that he “wanted to kill white officers.”

At the ceremony, NBA greats LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony called for an end to gun violence and implored other athletes in the room to use their platforms and speak out about the issue.

Watch Zenobia Dobson’s powerful speech in the video above.

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