Thursday, December 01, 2022

Alejandro Bedoya and his mission to stop armed violence in America

Alejandro Bedoya used his feet — and his voice — to make a statement on August 4, 2019.

The Philadelphia Union team traveled to the nation’s capital to play against DC United. The match had implications for the MLS standings, but football wasn’t the only thing on the players’ minds that day.

Twenty-three people were shot and killed in El Paso, Texas the day before the game. Less than 24 hours later, another massacre killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio.

The game was played on the same day as the Dayton shooting. Bedoya put his team on the board with a goal in the third minute, but what he did after that caught the attention of the crowd two miles away at the Capitolio.

Once Bedoya celebrated with his teammates, he grabbed a microphone at Audi Field and shouted, “Hey Congress, do something now. End gun violence.”

“As an athlete, you’re used to dividing things,” Bedoya said on the “My Favorite World Cup” podcast on NBCLX. “Your thoughts and being able to just focus and change. I couldn’t”.

Bedoya’s call immediately spread across the state, the Internet, and the country. They also told him that his message had gone viral during the game.

Bedoya said, “I remember after the first half, there was actually a policeman near the tunnel.” “And he was like, ‘I didn’t know what you said initially, but I got a lot of messages and I thank you for what you said.’

Like many Americans, the issue of gun violence is very close to Bedoya. The former national team midfielder grew up 20 miles from Parkland, Florida, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located, where a shooting took place in 2018 that killed 17 people. After that massacre, Bedoya decided it was time to take action.

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“Some people try to say you shouldn’t mix politics with sports, or this or that,” Bedoya said. “But for me, it’s not a political issue. I try to be as neutral as possible and I come from a place as a parent. I’m a neighbor. I’m a member of the community. I’m someone Someone who has seen my peers and neighbors, and been directly affected by gun violence. So this is an issue very close to me.”

Bedoya’s former national team teammates shared the same sentiment. Players such as DeAndre Yedlin, Mark McKenzie and Chris Richards play professionally overseas and are questioned about gun violence in the US by their peers in other countries. Richards, who spent four years in Germany before joining Premier League side Crystal Palace this year, said he felt safer abroad than in his home city.

The United States again felt the ravages of gun violence on May 24, 2022, when 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The tragedy occurred ten days after ten black people were murdered in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

On June 5, the US national team decided the class action. The team wrote and published a letter to Congress calling for stricter gun laws. The letter cited questions asked by players about violence in the U.S. while playing overseas and urged Congress to vote yes on legislation that “does exceed the minimum and significantly reduces violence with firearms.” requested.

“I think I was very proud when I saw the letter,” Bedoya said of his former teammates’ initiative. “It seems like people are very close. And they feel very strongly about it because they wanted to share it together in a letter. And I think it came from the Federation as well, so there was great support.” “

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According to Yedlin, statements on Twitter, moments of silence and “tacky” acts like T-shirts were not enough.

“I think you have to go to the roots and the people who have the power to make real change,” he said. “And that was Congress.”

The real break came later that month. The House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Safe Communities Act on June 24, with 234 votes in favor and 193 votes against. The legislation promised to improve and strengthen history monitoring of gun purchasers under the age of 21, provide funding for crisis intervention in all states and offer other stipulations aimed at combating gun violence. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law the next day, making it the first federal gun initiative in decades.

Bedoya was present at the White House to celebrate the approval of the legislation. While acknowledging the progress the law is meant to make, the incident was a sad reminder of why such legislation is needed.

“It was a monumental moment because it was the first time in nearly 30 years that a common sense gun law was passed,” he said. “But at the same time, it was sad because there were so many families in this incident who were suffering from gun violence and it’s so entrenched in our country.”

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