Alejandro Bedoya Voices Desire to Stop Gun Violence in America

Alejandro Bedoya Voices Desire to Stop Gun Violence in America originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Alejandro Bedoya used his leg – and his voice – to make a statement on Aug. 4, 2019.

The Philadelphia Union traveled to the nation’s capital that day to take on D.C. United. The match carried MLS table implications, but soccer was not the only thing on the minds of players and supporters at that time.

Twenty-three people were shot and killed in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, the day before the match. Less than 24 hours later, another mass shooting took the lives of nine people in Dayton, Ohio.

The Union-United match carried on the same day as the Dayton shooting. Bedoya put the Union on the board with a third-minute goal, but it was what he did afterwards that caught the attention of people less than two miles down the road at the U.S. Capitol.

Once Bedoya was done 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 compartmentalizing things, right?” Bedoya said on NBC LX’s “My New Favorite Futbolista” podcast. “Your thoughts and just being able to focus and shift. I just couldn’t.”

Bedoya’s call to action spread across the stadium, internet and country instantly. He was even notified about its virality during the match.

“I remember going into halftime, there’s a police officer by the sidelines, actually right by the tunnel,” Bedoya said. “And he just mentioned to me, like, ‘I didn’t know what you said initially, 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, Fla., home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which was the site of a 2018 mass shooting that resulted in 17 deaths. Following the shooting, Bedoya decided it was time to act.

“Some people try to say get politics out of sports or this and that,” Beodya said. “But for me, this isn’t really a political issue. I try to be as non-partisan as possible and just come at an angle where, 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, been directly affected by gun violence. So it really hit home.”

That sentiment is one shared by Bedoya’s former USMNT teammates. Players like DeAndre Yedlin, Mark McKenzie and Chris Richards play professionally overseas and are asked about U.S. gun violence by their international teammates. Richards, who spent four years playing in Germany before joining Premier League club Crystal Palace this year, said he even felt safer overseas than he does in his hometown.

America felt the devastation of gun violence once again on May 24, 2022, when 19 young students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. That tragedy came just 10 days after 10 Black people were killed at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.

On June 5, the USMNT decided to take collective action. The team authored and published a letter to Congress calling for stronger gun laws. The letter cited the questions the team’s players face about American gun violence when competing overseas and implored Congress to vote yes on legislation “that does more than the bare minimum and will bring about a meaningful reduction in gun violence.”

“I think I was very proud when I did see that letter,” Bedoya said of his former teammates’ initiative. “It feels like the guys are very united, you know, and together. And they felt strongly enough where they wanted to share a letter together. And I think it came from the federation, too, so that’s a big kind of backing and support there.”

In Yedlin’s eyes, “cliche” acts like Twitter statements, 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 that have the power to make it make a real change,” he said. “And that was Congress.”

The real chance came to fruition later that month. The House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on June 24 by a vote of 234 to 193. The act promised to enhance and strengthen background checks for gun purchases under the age of 21, provided funding for crisis intervention orders in every state and offered other conditions aimed at combating gun violence. President Joe Biden signed the act into law the following day, marking the first significant federal gun safety bill in decades.

Bedoya was in attendance at the White House to commemorate the passing of the act. While he can acknowledge the progress the act brings, he said the event itself was a sobering reminder of why that legislation was needed in the first place.

“It was just a monumental kind of moment, just as you’re aware of the first type of gun sense legislation that’s been passed in almost 30 years, so that was huge in itself,” he said. “But at the same time, it was tragic, right? Because at the event, you also see a lot of the families who have been traumatized by the gun violence that is so pervasive in our country.”