ESPN Honors the Late Zaevion Dobson With Courage Award After He Shielded Girls From Gunfire

By Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
July 14, 2016 Updated: July 14, 2016

Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year-old high school football player from Tennessee, was fatally shot in December while shielding two young women from a gang-related drive-by shooting, according to police. 

On July 13, Dobson was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2016 ESPY Awards.

His mother, Zenobia Dobson, and his two brothers accepted the award, presented by Steph Curry, in Zaevion’s honor. The Arthur Ashe Award recognizes individuals “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril, and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost,” according to ESPN.

In her speech, Dobson, who also lost her 12-year-old nephew to a drive-by shooting four months after her son’s death, urged athletes to use their influence to prevent gun violence and create safer communities.

“I’m here to fight back,” Dobson said in her acceptance speech, according to ESPN. 

“We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on families throughout America,” she said. “All the athletes in this room, you have a lot of power, 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 young man or woman from being lost as well.”

(L-R) 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 on July 13, 2016, in Los Angeles.  (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
(L-R) Markastin Taylor, Zenobia Dobson, and Zackelyn Dobson accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage on behalf of Zaevion Dobson during the 2016 ESPYS on July 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Dobson asked athletes to come together to save innocent lives. “We need to rewrite laws to make it harder for the people to get guns.”

“If my son were here tonight I know what I’d say to him: ‘Zaevion, your dream and visions are here with us to prove that your act of bravery and boldness revealed to the world the real you—handsome, strong, and with a beautiful spirit—you were, and you remain, a guardian angel to us. In heaven is where you belong. Fly high our falcon 24.” she said.

Dobson received a standing ovation after her speech.

ESPYs Executive Producer Maura Mandt said in a statement, “Zaevion’s actions to risk his own life for others demonstrate the true meaning of the word courage, and his boundless bravery has inspired many.” 

Zaevion is the youngest person to win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which ESPN has been giving out since 1993.

NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony went on stage earlier in the night and delivered similar ideas to Zenobia. They touched on gun violence and the importance of using their influence to make a difference in their communities. 

“We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. We do. But that’s not acceptable. It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘what are we doing to create change?'” James said. 

“Let’s use this moment as call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence.”