Parkland shooting victim watches MLB games as cardboard cutout for gun violence campaign

Manny Oliver is ensuring his son continues to visit MLB ballparks while also spreading a message about gun violence ahead of the 2020 election.

Joaquin Oliver was one of the 17 people killed in the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. Before the shooting, Joaquin and his father, Manny, had started touring ballparks and visited Detroit, New York and Boston. Now that tour continues.

Oliver, who runs Change the Ref with his wife Patricia to battle gun violence, is working with advertising agency MullenLowe to put cardboard cutouts of Joaquin in 14 ballparks around the country.

“We are putting together an American tradition like baseball with an American pandemic like gun violence. These are two very American things,” Oliver told Tim Nudd at Muse by Clio.

The campaign is to both keep Joaquin’s memory alive and continue bringing attention to the issue. Joaquin was 17 when he left for school and did not come home.

MLB players, teams get involved in gun violence campaign

Joaquin was a big baseball fan, even though his parents weren’t. He was also an overall sports fan and was buried in Dwyane Wade’s jersey.

The cutout of Joaquin is in the home ballparks of the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics, among others.

It started organically with the Olivers purchasing the cutout space as any other fan would. Then the Toronto Blue Jays, who are playing in Buffalo, New York, this season, called and said they wanted to be part of the campaign, he said.

The Oakland Athletics called asking where the cutout was located in their park so that pitcher Jesús Luzardo could get a photo with it.

The campaign is called “83 Strikes and No Outs” because there have been “83 additional school shootings and zero changes to federal gun laws” since the shooting in Parkland, per Change the Ref.

There were more than two dozen school shootings in 2019, per an ABC News analysis. In 2018, per FBI data, there were more than 185,000 aggravated assaults with a firearm.

Cardboard cutout campaign ahead of Election Day 2020

Cardboard cutouts at Citi Field during batting practice.
Joaquin Oliver, one of the 17 who died in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, is at 14 ballparks across the U.S. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Oliver said he won’t “do things that have already been shown to fail,” like talking to politicians in Washington, D.C. This campaign is a creative way to make a strong message and statement, he said.

“We know gun violence is a main subject that needs to be part of the decision we're going to make on Nov. 3. It's a reality. No one's going to ask if you are Democratic or Republican before shooting you. So that's where we are,” Oliver said, via Muse by Clio. “I'm pretty sure gun violence is going to be a decision-maker when it comes to who are we electing and who are we not electing.”

Oliver told Good Morning America he hopes seeing Joaquin in the stands will inspire people to take action, whether by voting, educating themselves on the issue, joining a relevant organization, or getting to know kids in the community who might need help.

“I didn’t see a message like this one before Feb. 14,” he said, via Good Morning America. “Maybe if someone had the brave attitude of doing something like this before Parkland, maybe I would have been one of the lucky ones to see that, and maybe I would have done something before Joaquin was murdered. [I would have been] part of the solution.”

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