Common sense prevailed, and as a result Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won’t face discipline from Major League Soccer for picking up a live microphone after scoring in Sunday’s 5-1 win over D.C. United and urging Congress to “do something” about the gun violence that claims almost 40,000 lives in the United States each year.
Bedoya’ outburst was in response to a pair of mass shootings over the weekend that killed 29 people in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. On Monday, MLS issued a statement supporting Bedoya’s decision to speak out, without specifically mentioning his name or Sunday’s incident.
“The Major League Soccer family joins everyone in grieving for the loss of lives in Texas and Ohio, and we understand that our players and staff have strong and passionate views on this issue,” the statement read.
Like other sports leagues, MLS generally frowns on fans or players using its matches as platform for political statements. But while Bedoya’s specific comment — “Congress, do something now! End gun violence, let’s go!” — is political, he’s hardly the only one frustrated with the growing spate of massacres committed by deranged individuals who never should’ve had access to weapons that enable them to kill dozens in seconds.
“In regards to my statement during my goal celebration, it’s a shame it’s seen as a political one,” Bedoya, who represented the U.S. men’s national team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, wrote on Instagram on Monday, shortly after being named the MLS Player of the Week. “For me, my comments were simply humane. Sharing a sentiment that I consider most Americans can agree on. As in, we need to act like the UNITED States of America and come together to work on solutions to put an end to the gross rate of gun violence in our great country.”
Bedoya was lauded on social media and around the league. Union coach Jim Curtin expressed his full support for his captain after the match. Later, the club issued a statement saying the same thing. Several opponents also backed the popular veteran, including former U.S. teammate Brad Guzan of Atlanta United, who spoke of the sense that’s set in recently that these incidents can happen anywhere.
“I think you worry more about going to the grocery store than you do about playing in a stadium,” Guzan told ProSoccerUSA.com.
Fining or suspending Bedoya for expressing that sentiment would’ve been a terrible look for MLS. But then the league has struggled to balance allowing free speech and keeping hateful signs, slogans or groups out of its stadiums. It drew public criticism earlier this year for not quickly and forcefully condemning known members of a violent neo-fascist organization that had been menacing fellow supporters at New York City FC games, and again for preventing Seattle Sounders fans from displaying the logo of a anti-Nazi paramilitary organization formed in Germany before World War II.
This one was a no-brainer: The New York Times reported that MLS officials huddled inside the league’s Manhattan headquarters on Monday morning before quickly determining that no further action was required.
Bedoya has spoken out about gun violence before, including on social media before Sunday’s game after the two mass shootings that came less than 24 hours apart. The 32-year-old New Jersey native grew up in suburban Miami a short drive from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff members were gunned down by an unhinged former classmate early last year.
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