“Please stand up” for gun control


Reggie Cannon, like most men on the US national soccer team, has traveled the world representing his country and playing his sport. He grew up in Texas about five hours from Uvalde but now lives in Portugal. When news of the devastating shooting in his home state last week left Cannon “completely distraught,” his Portuguese teammates were “really confused,” he said.

“What’s going on in America?” they ask whenever American gun violence makes international headlines.

Cannon then has to explain to them that, unlike in any other developed country, mass shootings in the US are “no surprise”. They’re, says Cannon with a sigh, “kind of normal for us.”

His experience and dozens of similar experiences in the U.S. roster helped inform a letter USMNT players and staff sent to Congress pleading for tougher gun laws Sunday after the wake-up massacres in Uvalde, Buffalo and elsewhere. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 69 documented mass shootings in the US last month, including 11 this weekend alone.

“We are often asked how such horrific gun violence can occur in a place like the United States,” the USMNT wrote. “We are also asked why the people’s representatives are not doing anything when most Americans want them to do something. Those of us who gamble abroad professionally experience none of this in our daily lives, and yet we return home to a place where mass shootings are appallingly common and the victims are often defenseless children.

“Those who lost their lives to senseless gun violence – and their grieving families and friends – are in our thoughts and prayers. But like the all too often moments of silence we use at our games to honor the victims, our thoughts and prayers will not solve this problem,” the letter continued. “Beyond the death and debilitating injuries, gun violence causes so much more harm to the mental health of children, their parents, teachers, and all Americans concerned about whether they or someone they love will be among the next victims of a mass shooting.

The coaches of the USA men’s national team raise their arms during the national anthem ahead of their friendly against Morocco on Wednesday. (Photo by Lee Klafczynski/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

“Our ability to effect change is limited, but yours is not. You could vote this week to address gun violence in America, and indeed you will have that opportunity. In the coming days, the US House of Representatives will vote on several bills that would address this serious issue. Please vote yes to all bills under consideration.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Thursday that her House of Congress will vote on comprehensive gun control legislation next week. The Democrat-controlled House is expected to pass these bills, but Senate Republicans are expected to block them.

“To members of the United States Senate,” the USMNT letter continued, “a small group of your colleagues from both parties is working to draft a bill that will require the support of 60 out of 100 senators to pass. Please stand up and say that you will pass the gun bill so that a bill can go to the Senate and the House and Senate can then work together to complete a bill that goes above and beyond what is necessary and brings about a significant reduction in Armed force.

The players acknowledged that “there are people who say athletes shouldn’t get involved in matters that are considered political,” but they continued: “Certainly we all agree that the safety of children in our country is one sacred responsibility is shared by all of us. We believe it would be irresponsible not to use our platform to raise awareness and call for change. Our activism is born out of necessity – we are speaking out on this issue because many of you are refusing to take action.

“Families in Uvalde, Texas are in the process of burying 19 children and 2 teachers. Please stop putting campaign contributions above the lives of children. Stop being guided by a misguided notion that you’ll vote for — or even refuse to talk about — a gun reform bill in the first place — you’ll be voted out of office. Instead, do what is necessary to prevent this from happening again.

The USMNT released the letter 90 minutes before their friendly against Uruguay in Kansas City. Players wear orange armbands during gameplay to raise awareness of the fight against gun violence.

“This group will examine every opportunity that arises to create change, create change and stimulate conversation,” Cannon said earlier this week ahead of the team’s first friendly before the World Cup.

He acknowledged that the conversation about gun violence has been going on for years without much impact, but “I think this is the biggest call for change,” he said of the renewed push following the shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers Robb Primary School in Uvalde.

“Because this” – he paused for a painful breath – “was such a difficult thing to deal with and I can’t imagine the families and children who obviously suffered from this tragedy.”

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