BET Awards celebrate 20th anniversary amid pandemic and protests against systemic racism – Daily News

In April, BET Networks President Scott Mills and the producers of the annual BET Awards acknowledged that they would have to cancel his popular four-day BET Experience and free fan festival at LA Live due to the continued spread of the coronavirus. , but they were adamant that the awards ceremony would feature in some capacity.

The team quickly pivoted the BET Awards, which are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, to a virtual broadcast without a live audience. The show will be hosted by comedian Amanda Seales and airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS.

The evening, which will include numerous pre-filmed and live performances, recognizes black achievement and culture and awards trophies in more than 20 categories to artists, musicians and professional athletes.

  • Actor Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther,” “Creed”) is nominated in the Best Actor category for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Rich Fury, Getty Images)

  • Olympic medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles is nominated in the Sports Category of the Year for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths, Getty Images)

  • Rapper Roddy Ricch has been nominated in five categories — including Album of the Year, Best Male Hip Hop Artist and Best New Artist — for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Jerritt Clark, Getty Images)

  • Writer, producer and actress Issa Rae (“The Lovebirds,” “Awkward Black Girl,” “The Photograph”) is nominated in the Best Actress category at the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Steven Ferdman, Getty Images)

  • Broadway star, singer and actor Billy Porter (“Pose,” “Like a Boss”) is nominated in the Best Actor category for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)

  • Comedian Amanda Seales will host the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)

  • The Weeknd is nominated in the Top Male R&B/Pop Artist and Viewer’s Choice categories for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Kevin Winter, Getty Images for Coachella)

  • Beyoncé is nominated in the Album of the Year, Best Female R&B/Pop Artist, Best Picture and BET HER award categories for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. . (Photo by Larry Busacca, Getty Images for Coachella)

  • Super Bowl LIV champion and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is nominated in the Sportsman of the Year category for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Rob Carr, Getty Images)

  • Lizzo (pictured performing at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles in 2019) is nominated for Album of the Year, Best Female R&B/Pop Artist and Best Female Hip Hop Artist for the 2020 BET Awards , which will air at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Kevin Winter, Getty Images)

  • Hip-hop artist Drake leads the pack with six nominations for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Chris Delmas, AFP via Getty Images)

  • Rapper Megan Thee Stallion has been nominated in five categories — including Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Collaboration — for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. . (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images)

  • R&B singer-songwriter HER is nominated in the Album of the Year, Best Female R&B/Pop Artist and Best Collaboration categories for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. (Photo by Rich Fury, Getty Images)

  • Rapper Megan Thee Stallion has been nominated in five categories — including Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Collaboration — for the 2020 BET Awards, which airs at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28 on BET and CBS. . (Photo by Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)

“The BET Awards show is the biggest celebration of black culture on TV and there was accountability with COVID and how it was disproportionately impacting our community from a health, financial and social perspective. welfare,” Mills said of the initial push to keep the awards show intact in a recent phone interview. “We felt it was absolutely essential to move forward with the show,”

Since that ruling, the death of George Floyd while in police custody has sparked weeks of protests against systemic racism and incidents of police brutality across the country.

“Thank goodness we made the decision in April to move forward,” Mills said. “We feel it’s really important to use the platform to give voice to so much of what is felt in our community. So while we won’t all be together in person, we think it will be a powerful community experience for everyone watching.

The show, which usually takes place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, will feature performances by Alicia Keys, DaBaby, Chloe X Halle, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Kane Brown, Usher, Wayne Brady and more. .

Top honorees include Drake, who is up for six awards, and top new artist nominees Megan Thee Stallion and Roddy Ricch, who both picked up five nominations each. The latter two are also expected to deliver performances, though Mills says these sets will be anything but traditional.

The BET Awards production staff has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and has adhered to federal, state, city, and Viacom/CBS policies as they have evolved since the pandemic began. Mills said the Microsoft Theater stage has always provided them with a blank canvas to work with, but with a virtual broadcast, that canvas has widened and creativity is unleashed.

“The great thing about creatives is that they like creative challenges,” he said. “The team would go out and come up with 100 ideas and then contact the talent. And once again, the beauty of the artists we work with is that they are fundamentally creative people. Some artists said, “I want to perform outside” or “I want to perform in the street”. Some wanted to perform on a sound stage and one artist said, “I want to do a mini-movie.” It’s exciting because the talent was thrilled to take on the challenge and they came up with some pretty amazing executions.

There are a total of 15 music categories, including the highest honor, album of the year. The nominees are “Cuz I Love You” by Lizzo, “Fever” by Stallion, “Homecoming: The Live Album” by Beyoncé, “I Used to Know Her” by HER, “Kirk” by DaBaby and “Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial” by Richch.

Mills says there’s diversity among the music nominees this year, a mix of well-known artists and a new generation of talent.

“It’s about change and freshness, new opportunities and kind of constant evolution,” he explained.

The BET Awards also recognize actors and actresses who have starred in television and film projects.

Best Actress nominees include Angela Bassett (“9-1-1”), Cynthia Erivo (“The Outsider”), Issa Rae (“The Lovebirds”), Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) and Zendaya ( “Euphoria”). The Best Actor nominees are Billy Porter (“Pose”), Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”), Forest Whitaker (“Empire”), Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy”), Michael B. Jordan (“Creed II “) and Omari Hardwick (“Power”).

“We’ve seen over the past few years this shift towards supporting more diverse stories and diverse talent in TV and film, so it’s nice to see the range of talent, projects and great actors that we can recognize,” he said.

Sports personalities are celebrated at the BET Awards, and there’s certainly no shortage of stars this year.

The nominees for Sportswoman of the Year are runner and American record holder Ajeé Wilson, professional boxer Claressa Shields, America’s most decorated gymnast Simone Biles and tennis stars Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. The Sportsman of the Year nominees are Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers, LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Super Bowl LIV-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes II of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mills says he shows his daughter and son, who are 9-year-old twins, videos of Biles’ routines because they are “an illustration of training, effort, sacrifice, discipline and talent” and that Mahomes is not only welcome as Sportsman of the Year because he helped win the Super Bowl this year but because of “everything he has accomplished outside off the pitch,” including his participation in the NFL players’ Black Lives Matter video.

Over the past decade, BET has made a conscious effort to shine a light on female talent with things like the BET HER award, which recognizes mainstream or neo-soul R&B artists. This year’s nominees include Alicia Keys for “Underdog”, Ciara with Lupita Nyong’o, Ester Dean, City Girls & La La with “Melanin”, Layton Greene’s “I Choose”, Lizzo with Missy Elliot’s “Tempo”, Rapsody with PJ Morgan’s “Afeni” and Beyoncé with her daughter Blue Ivy, WizKid & Saint Jhn with “Brown Skin Girl”.

“We understand how important it is to ensure our community sees a full range of opportunity, excellence and expression of people’s abilities,” Mills said. “We have a big announcement coming up that will reinforce our focus on African American women who have done amazing things and are doing amazing things in our community and I think that’s a key part of our role at BET is to really ensure we pay tribute and shine a light on the most amazing people in our community.