It is a combination of frightening and enraging that some of the coaches, athletes and professional sports teams in this country care more about the safety and well-being of their fellow human beings than the elected leaders who are ostensibly paid to craft policy that protects and promotes the well-being of the citizenry that voted them into office.
Since Tuesday afternoon’s devastating massacre in Uvalde, Texasnumerous sports figures and even teams have used their respective platforms and considerable reach to do what they can to try to affect change.
The United States Senate, the most feckless body in America, went on vacation.
On Tuesday evening, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sat in front of media in Dallas before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. He had no interest in talking about the Mavericks or the aches and pains of any of his players from him.
Instead, he pounded the table and called out Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell by name, as well as others who have chosen lining their own pockets with gun lobby monies over the lives of our most vulnerable.
Since there are so many mass-casualty shootings to keep track of, in this case Kerr was referring to school children in Uvalde, Black elders in Buffalo and churchgoers in Southern California.
“When are we going to do something?!?” Kerr roared, his anger and helplessness palatable, understandable and shared by so many.
Kerr frequently shares his thoughts on civil rights and human rights, but gun violence is an issue close to home. Kerr’s father, Malcolm, was assassinated outside his office at the American University of Beirut in 1984, when Steve was 18.
Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has spoken up now multiple times this week, both on Twitter and with reporters, about the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country uniquely among its peers around the world.
Cloud, like so many WNBA players, is unafraid to be an activist and do what she can to try to create change. WNBA players have been leaders on this front for years, going back to when Minneapolis police killed Philando Castile and Baton Rouge police killed Alton Sterling.
But if you know anything about history — you know, the kind of history some lawmakers don’t want you to learn — you know that Black women have always been at the vanguard of the civil rights fight in this country, and have always put their lives on the line for the advancement of their communities, for the betterment of their people.
If we waited for anyone else to do it, nothing would be done.
While Kerr and Cloud are among those we have come to expect to hear from when yet another mass-casualty incident occurs, what happened Thursday night was surprising.
Before the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays played in Florida, the teams posted a statement on their respective Twitter accounts announcing that instead of the usual game updates fans would see, both teams would be posting gun violence facts from the non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety.
“The most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have shaken us to the core,” the Rays’ statement read. “This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb. We cannot look the other way. We all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes.”
The decision, of course, was met with derision by some users on the platform, but it was powerful to see fact-based information, with citations provided, as well as resources like the phone numbers for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (because 4.5 million American women annually report being threatened with a firearm by an intimate partner) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (because access to a gun triple the risk of death by suicide), that illustrated just how pervasive the issue is.
It is not Steve Kerr’s job, not Natasha Cloud’s job nor the Yankees’ and Rays’ responsibility to do what they did.
It is the job of the Senators and Congresspeople elected by the citizens of their respective states and districts to do so. Polling shows that majorities of voters support background checks for all firearms sales, bans on weapons like the AR-15 and AK-47, and “red flag” laws, which temporarily confiscate weapons from those deemed to be a danger to others or themselves.
And yet here we are, with multiple states in recent years essentially eliminating all restrictions to obtaining weapons, including in Texas, where you don’t even have to have a permit and where federal law permits anyone under 21 from buying a handgun but state law lets 18-year-olds, like the killer in Uvalde, buy AR-15s.
The House of Representatives has long since passed HR 8 —twice! — a measure which would expand background checks and is the absolute least that could be done. But still it has languished in the shiftless Senate, where tweets from many members about “thoughts and prayers,” only given a quick edit to replace the name of the city where a new mass casualty event just occurred, are the most we ever get.
They are tantamount to a digital shrug, a gesture so meaningless they have become parody.
This is the country we live in. And as long as sports coaches, players and teams are trying harder to change it than many of our elected officials, it will remain this way.