For nearly 12 minutes after the Philadelphia Union’s 1-1 draw at the New England Revolution on Saturday evening, captain Alejandro Bedoya discussed gun violence – an issue that’s especially front-and-center across the United States after 19 children and two teachers were murdered on Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
The Union took to the Gillette Stadium turf in warmup tops that read “End Gun Violence” and Bedoya’s captain's armband carried the same message. Then, the 35-year-old former US international was impassioned while fielding several questions in his postgame press conference.
“There's people that tell us to shut up and dribble or to stick to soccer or whatever,” Bedoya said. “I just said, there's things that are bigger than sports, than soccer. We're talking about coming off a week where we saw 19 children gunned down, two teachers. It's disgusting, it's awful, terrible. So the human side of us just takes over, right? It's just normal to have this type of reaction.”
Bedoya’s been outspoken on this issue before, grabbing an on-field microphone after scoring a third-minute goal during an August 2019 match between Philadelphia and D.C. United at Allianz Field. His message – “Congress, do something now. End gun violence” – came across the FS1 broadcast feed and followed a string of mass shootings, most notably in El Paso, Texas.
Before a July 2020 match vs. New York City FC at the MLS is Back Tournament, Union players revealed names of victims of police brutality on the back of their jerseys – a statement amid the height of the George Floyd protests. Bedoya's armband for that match listed 30 such names, and former Union midfielder Warren Creavalle designed Black Lives Matter t-shirts seen at the return-to-play event in Orlando, Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days.
Bedoya said Philadelphia’s tight-knit locker room allows societal issues to be discussed, though pointed questions arise about gun violence.
“My teammates are from Norway, British, a Danish guy, all over the world,” Bedoya said. “They come here and they can't fathom, they don't understand the obsession and why these types of mass shootings happen in this country. Why do we have to live like this?”
Elsewhere in Week 14, MLS’s three Texan clubs – Austin FC, FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo FC – are wearing a remembrance patch on their jerseys to honor the victims of Tuesday’s mass shooting. In place of posting their starting lineups on social media, the Colorado Rapids and Nashville SC instead shared names and ages of the victims.
Bedoya said it’s all a reminder there’s no choice but to keep pressing for change.
“It's hard to stay positive or to maintain that optimism,” Bedoya said. “But I think with the new generation and everything, we just got to continue to use your voices and use social media and our platforms to continue to advocate for things to improve. Because as great of a country America is, there's a lot of things that need to improve. And this is a massive, massive issue.”
Bedoya also questioned what persistent mass shootings reveal about the idea of “American exceptionalism,” urging those in power to enact meaningful change that prevents tragedies.
“There needs to be something done about this,” Bedoya said. “We can't keep standing idly by, just sending thoughts and prayers and using words. I'm sure they would have much rather have their kids than prayers.”
"I'm sick and tired of having to talk about this, man," he added earlier. "It sucks, it's draining. All we can do as players is continue to use our platform to advocate for those in power to do something about it, take more action. What's there right now ain't working."