The United States men’s national team wore orange armbands in Sunday’s 0-0 friendly draw against Uruguay to show their support for a letter the team had sent to Congress urging it to pass tougher laws to say goodbye to gun control.
The letter was written after the mass shooting of 19 school children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas by an 18-year-old gunman. This massacre came just 10 days after another teenager shot and killed 10 people at a convenience store in a mostly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York.
The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on the gun law in the coming days.
“As legislation continues to be considered in the House and Senate in the coming days, we ask that you stand with the majority of Americans who support tougher gun laws,” the letter reads in part.
Like scores of other professional sports teams across the United States, the orange armbands worn by the USMNT this weekend showed their support for Wear Orange Weekend, an annual event calling for an end to gun violence.
“Really proud of the whole group today for the letter that was sent to everyone in Congress calling for action,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter after the game. “It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in our little world and what we’re doing and then forget what’s going on in the outside world, but this group certainly didn’t do that.
“And you saw the letter and the orange bracelets. And everyone’s just tired, and it’s good that this group is asking for action and asking people to make change and to be the change, we’ve been involved in that for a while. “
The letter was written at the suggestion of Berhalter, who was motivated by the shooting of Hadiyah Pendleton. At the time of her death in 2013, Pendleton was just 15 years old.
“It’s not just about the mass shootings that you see every day, it’s about the needless gun violence and the children and the people that die every day,” Berhalter added.
At Berhalter’s suggestion, the team’s Executive Council wrote the first draft and then presented it to the entire team.
“We wanted to act and really send it to Congress, to those who can make a difference with these laws and are really proud of the group and the way we’ve stepped up,” defense attorney Walker Zimmerman said.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic added: “People can say, ‘It’s not the guns, it’s the people’, but we have to start somewhere. And that’s where we wanted to start.”
The USSF has worked in the past to reinforce social justice messages with the senior national teams. The men’s national team has embraced the ‘Be The Change’ slogan echoed in the letter and have worn warm-up gear in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The USWNT has also worn “Black Lives Matter” during their warm-up drills in past games. Several USWNT players wore “Protect Trans Kids” sports bands on their wrists during their SheBelieves Cup game against Iceland in February.
The USSF Board of Directors passed an interim resolution banning discriminatory singing in connection with events hosted by the USSF back in March. This resolution was passed at the last meeting of the USSF Rules Committee.
“There are those who say that athletes should not interfere in matters that are considered political,” the letter reads. “Certainly we can all agree that the safety of children in our country is a sacred responsibility shared by all of us.
“We believe it would be irresponsible not to use our platform to raise awareness and call for change. Our activism is born out of necessity – we are speaking out on this issue because many of you are refusing to take action.”