The Philadelphia Union captain went viral on Sunday when he grabbed a field microphone after scoring and urged Congress to act to prevent gun violence
Alejandro Bedoya was at home in the French city of Nantes in the fall of 2015, tuned to Germanys friendly at the Stade de France against Les Bleus. Like much of the viewing public, he knew something was amiss in the first half, when the broadcast picked up loud noises emanating from outside the stadium. They would later be revealed as suicide bomb explosions, one by a terrorist who had tried to infiltrate the stadium itself.
For an athlete long engaged in off-field matters, the targeting of a sporting event for terror in the 13 November attacks marked a bitter awakening. Bedoya had rarely heeded the call to stick to sports, and when life-or-death issues encroached, the notion that he should limit himself to the game alone was fully bunk.
Thats when as a football player, as an athlete, theyre using a stadium, a place of entertainment, to attack our freedoms. So of course you think about that, Bedoya told the Guardian this week. Youre stuck in a locker room and something goes off, or youre on the field and somebody can, if they can get into the stadium with the types of guns and ammunition and magazines these guys have and fire away, youre on the field, an open target. Of course these things cross our minds.
The attacks in Paris are one of the myriad influences that provide context for Bedoya making headlines Sunday. The captain of MLSs Philadelphia Union, Bedoya scored in the third minute of a nationally televised game against DC United. After celebrating with teammates, he found a broadcast microphone and shouted a message to a nation rocked by two mass shootings that weekend: Hey Congress, do something now. End gun violence. Lets go!
His words rocketed around the internet, the video garnering millions of views. The reaction surprised no one more than Bedoya, who found out from an Audi Field security guard at halftime that his moment had gone viral.
In the hours before the game, Bedoya had tweeted about the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that had claimed a combined total of more than 30 lives. Hed talked about them with family, including a group chat with friends who, half-jokingly, challenged Bedoya to use his visibility to get his voice out there. As he went through his usual pre-match routine, the tragedies remained in his thoughts.
The fact that I scored an early goal, third minute, Im guessing everything was fresh in my mind, Bedoya said. So maybe it was a sign from God or something that, hey, you have a platform, speak out. I dont know. It just happened.
Bedoya isnt new to the issue. His wife, Beatrice, is Norwegian, a country rocked by a mass shooting in 2011 that caused profound changes in its approach to gun violence. Bedoya grew up in Weston, Florida, 20 miles from Parkland, site of a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Bedoya had played soccer there and knew people personally affected, speaking out in support of victims in the 2018 season opener.
His professional career has taken him all over the world, from 66 caps with the United States to club stints in France, Scotland and Sweden. Hes had teammates and friends from many nations, able to see issues here and abroad through a diverse set of viewpoints.
While many Americans are lulled into thinking of gun violence as an intractable problem, Bedoya has seen other countries successfully grapple with it.
I think people get stuck in their American ways of thinking, he said. A lot of Americans havent been able to travel the world or seen other things or seen the way it is in other places. I think in a lot of ways, my global perspective has helped me realize there is a gun violence problem in this country. Theres no secret about that.
Since his 10 impassioned words on Fox Sports which he tells the Guardian he doesnt regret and wouldnt change Bedoya has spoken with great care. He stressed that his call was nonpartisan, not a political gesture but one of a concerned citizen, a human being and father before an athlete. He discussed four solutions he considered common-sense things that I think both sides can agree on, including universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and expanded red flag laws. He urged people not to get caught up with logically dumb stuff like the scientifically unsubstantiated claim that video games contribute to gun violence. He decried many of the causes that politicians and pundits point to, like mental health and social/family issues, as present in other countries but without corresponding violence because of gun-control measures.
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