BET Awards: The Central Park Five, introduced as Exonerated Five, get standing ovation

Korey Wise, left, Raymond Santana Jr., Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Kevin Richardson, wrongly convicted of an infamous 1989 rape in New York's Central Park, received the warmest of receptions when they were introduced as "the Exonerated Five" at the BET Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday. (Photo: Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images for BET)

The five men wrongly convicted and eventually exonerated in connection with a brutal, headline-grabbing 1989 rape got a standing-ovation welcome Sunday at the BET Awards in Los Angeles.

The ceremony dropped its energetic, sometimes lighthearted tone and took a serious turn when host Regina Hall introduced the men, long known as the Central Park Five, as “the Exonerated Five.” 

She noted how Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series “When They See Us” has put the men, whose convictions were vacated in 2002, back in the news and that their story remains relevant today. 

“‘When They See Us’ reminds us all that the racial injustices continue to happen … and plague our justice system,” Hall said, before introducing Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam.

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The men took the stage to a standing ovation, with crowd shots of such luminaries as Tyler Perry and John Legend, before they shared their bond in word, with each reciting a line of dialogue.

Their combined presentation: “We are all on our own individual journey in life/We don’t know where our journey will take us or if (it) will collide with others/One day will bond me to these men for the rest of our lives/But I know that in telling our truth, our lives have been changed forever/Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be built on.”

Salaam then introduced H.E.R. as a performer who, “like us, is serious about telling her truth,” before the young Grammy performer, playing the bass, performed an impassioned rendition of her socially conscious “Lord Is Coming.”

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