MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan said “it’s a very sad world we live in,” regarding two mass shootings that took place over the weekend.
Guzan was asked about the actions of Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya, who after scoring a goal against D.C. United Sunday night shouted into a field microphone, “Hey Congress, do something now. End gun violence. Let’s go.”
Guzan said he supports Bedoya’s action.
“Obviously, I’m proud of Ale and what happened yesterday,” Guzan said at the Children’s Healthcare Training Ground Monday. “More importantly, something needs to be done. There needs to be some change, because as a father of three, it’s sad. It’s extremely, extremely sad.”
Two mass shootings in roughly 13 hours killed at least 30 people and injured at least 52 more.
Saturday morning, a man killed 21 and injured 25 with an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. That night in a populated downtown Dayton, Ohio, neighborhood, a man killed at least nine and injured at least 27 with .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle.
After Philadelphia’s 5-1 win over D.C., Bedoya elaborated on his comments: “I’m not going to sit idly and watch this stuff happen and not say something. Before I’m an athlete, before I’m a soccer player, I’m a human being first. This stuff affects me.”
Guzan did not get into policy specifics Monday, but he reiterated that “something needs to be done.”
“These mass shootings need to stop,” Guzan said. “There needs to be something. I don’t know what that answer is, but something needs to change. This isn’t OK. This isn’t — certainly not safe. As I mentioned, as a parent, this is happening way too often, and something needs to be done. It cannot be acceptable.”
Asked if playing in public spaces in front of large crowds is a worry held by Guzan and his teammates, the goalkeeper pointed to every-day experiences that are more of a concern.
“I think you worry more about going to the grocery store than you do about playing in a stadium,” Guzan said. “It’s a very sad world that we live in at the minute. It’s something that is happening way too often.”
Jeff Larentowicz also spoke in support of Bedoya’s comments. Larentowicz said it has been a good summer for athletes voicing their opinions and specifically brought up United States women’s national team player Megan Rapinoe, who has been vocal in her opposition of President Donald Trump and the pay disparity between men’s and women’s national team players. Larentowicz said Rapinoe has “built a legacy in a month that could last a lifetime, and I think it’s all for positive change.”
“My favorite basketball player growing up was Charles Barkley, and I remember he very candidly said, ‘I’m not a role model,’ in a commercial, but it’s unavoidable,” Larentowicz said. “When you’re on television, people are watching you every week and you’re doing appearances in the community, you have the opportunity to speak up.”
Larentowicz acknowledged public figures speaking out on such issues can expect to receive backlash, potentially violent in nature.
“I think that anybody that speaks out against something, especially violent acts, should be concerned,” the midfielder said. “Twitter, social media is a platform that exposes yourself and exposes your viewpoint and pinpoints it to an individual. And if someone feels a certain way about what you say, they can absolutely come after you. I think that there is a bit of danger involved and maybe influences guys on whether they decide to speak up or not.
“This is a violent issue. This is a matter of life and death, and I think that it takes courage to speak out against it and speak up in such a public manner.”
Asked if he had any comments on the subject of gun violence, Larentowicz echoed Bedoya.
“I’ll say that I agree with Alejandro, plain and simple,” he said. “I read his tweets as well. I think he hit on a lot of the stuff that people have been saying for a long time. I know it’s not easy. The constitution’s a living document, but it’s been a tough one to crack on that issue. I think that I agree where he’s coming from, for sure.”
Often when an athlete speaks out on any subject that is not related to their game, detractors reply with the common refrain, “stick to sports.” Guzan believes his broad reach as a professional athlete gives him a responsibility to speak out.
“First and foremost, we’re in a position where we have a platform to speak, and our voices are heard when things are said, right or wrong,” he said. “People say, ‘stick to sports,’ this and that. When you’re able to use your platform for something of this nature, I think regardless of your profession, I think the platform allows you to do that.”