Alejandro Bedoya used his leg and voice to make a statement on August 4, 2019.
The Philadelphia Union traveled to the nation’s capital that day to face DC United. The match was tied for the MLS table, but soccer wasn’t the only thing on the minds of the players and supporters at the time.
A mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, left 23 people dead the day before the game. Less than 24 hours later, another mass shooting claimed the lives of nine people in Dayton, Ohio.
The Union-United game happened on the same day as the Daytona shooting. Bedoya put the Union ahead with a third-minute goal, but it was what he did next that drew attention less than two miles down the road from the U.S. Capitol.
After Bedoya finished celebrating with his teammates, he grabbed one of the Audi Field microphones and yelled, “Hey, Congress, do something now. End gun violence.”
“As an athlete, you’re used to splitting things up, aren’t you?” Bedoya said on NBC LX’s “My New Favorite Futbolista” podcast. “Your thoughts and ability to focus and change. I just couldn’t.”
Bedoja’s call to action immediately spread in the stadium, on the Internet and in the country. He was even told about its virality during the game.
“I remember going to halftime, there’s a policeman on the sideline, actually right by the tunnel,” Bedoya said. “And he just mentioned to me, like, ‘I didn’t know what you were saying at first, but I got a lot of texts and thanks for what you said.’
Like many Americans, gun violence is something that hits close to home for Bedoya. The former U.S. men’s national team midfielder grew up about 20 miles from Parkland, Florida, home of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of a 2018 mass shooting that killed 17 people. After the shooting, Bedoya decided it was time to act.
“Some people try to say take politics out of sports or this and that,” Beodja said. “But it’s not really a political issue for me. I try to be as nonpartisan as possible and just come from the angle that, you know, I’m a father. I’m a neighbor. I’m a community member. I’m somebody who has seen my teammates and neighbors, directly affected by gun violence. So it really hit home.
That sentiment is shared by Bedoya’s former USMNT teammates. Players like Deandre Yedlin, Mark McKenzie and Chris Richards play professionally overseas and are being asked about gun violence in the US by their international teammates. Richards, who played in Germany for four years before joining Premier League club Crystal Palace this year, said he felt safer abroad than in his home town.
America felt the devastation of gun violence again on May 24, 2022, when 19 young students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This tragedy happened just 10 days after 10 black people were killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
On June 5, the USMNT decided to take collective action. The team wrote and published a letter to Congress calling for stricter gun laws. The letter cited questions the team’s players face about American gun violence while competing overseas and asked Congress to vote on legislation “that goes beyond the bare minimum and significantly reduces gun violence.”
“I think I was very proud when I saw that letter,” Bedoya said of her former teammates’ initiative. “It seems that the guys are very united and together. And they felt strong enough to share the letter together. And I think it came from the federation as well, so that’s a lot of support and support.
The US men’s soccer team used its platform to demand that Congress do something about gun violence in the US.
In Yedlin’s eyes, “cliché” like Twitter announcements, moments of silence and T-shirts were no longer good enough.
“I think, you know, you have to get to the root and the people who have the power to make it make a real difference,” he said. “And it was Congress.”
The real opportunity came later that month. The House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Safe Communities Act on June 24 by a vote of 234 to 193. The law promised to improve and strengthen background checks for gun purchases by those under 21, provided funding for crisis intervention orders in every state and offered. other conditions aimed at combating gun violence. President Joe Biden signed the law the next day, marking the first major federal gun safety bill in decades.
Bedoya attended the White House to commemorate the act’s passing. While he can acknowledge the progress the legislation has made, he said the event itself is a disturbing reminder of why the legislation was needed in the first place.
“It was just a monumental moment, as you know the first kind of gun recognition law passed in almost 30 years, so that in itself was huge,” he said. “But at the same time, it was tragic, wasn’t it? Because at the event, you can also see many families who have been traumatized by the gun violence that is so prevalent in our country.