Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium leaves lasting message despite Grizzlies losing their winning streak

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The 2020 MLK day basketball game is now history and while it will be remembered by some as the day the Memphis Grizzlies ended their seven-game winning streak, some will remember the messages they receive from some living legends.

Sports icons that could be seen and heard only at the Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium, an annual event that precedes the MLK game. The symposium consisted of this year’s National Civil rights sport legacy honorees:

  • WNBA Star Sheryle Swoopes
  • NBA Hall of Famer Robert Parish
  • NFL Legend Doug Williams
  • Former NBA star Caron Butler

Memphis Grizzlies TV play-by-play announcer Pete Pranica was extremely proud to be the moderator: “I am so thrilled to be here today, as we have every January for the past 18 years  pay tribute to athletes who have made significant contributions to both civil and human rights.”

Doug Williams, the Washington Redskins quarterback who made history as the first African-American QB to win a Super Bowl Championship, said he was in disbelief about being an honoree.

“When I got the call, the first thing I said was why me?” Williams said. “But I say to myself I must be blessed for someone to think of me that I am deserving of a legacy award.”

After his professional career, Williams was head coach at his alma mater, Grambling State University for nine years. He expressed how important it is to have and also become a role model.

“Growing up, I didn’t have a role model,” Williams said. “My oldest brother is who I wanted to be like, because to me, a role model can help you when you’re sick or down. So it should always be someone you personally know like your teacher, parents the pastor.”

Next to Williams was Butler, a 14-year NBA veteran who said he had mixed emotions just being here in Memphis and visiting the museum.

“I am proud to be who I am and be part of the legacy of my ancestors,” Butler said. “And then, I was frustrated and angry especially when I got on the balcony (at the National Civil Rights Museum).”

Butler stressed that the only way we can continue to honor Martin Luther King “is to be unified all the time.”

The only woman on stage was the first woman to play for the WNBA, Sheryl Swoopes. She made her voice heard during the symposium when Pranica asked what can be done to move society in the right direction.

“I’m definitely going to say equal pay for women,” she said, winning applause and cheering from the crowd.

Robert Parish, who played 21 seasons in the NBA, explained to the audience that they may not all be famous, but they all are role models.

“Believe it or not somebody is watching everything you do and say, so be careful how you carry yourself.”