- - Tuesday, August 6, 2019


Philadelphia Union’s Alejando Bedoya wanted to make a statement about gun violence, in the wake of the weekend of carnage in El Paso and Dayton that took another piece of the nation’s soul.

He grew up in Weston, Florida, close to the mass shooting last year at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School. Bedoya wore a shirt reading “MSD Strong” under his jersey for the 2018 opening game. Before Sunday night’s Major League Soccer game against D.C. United, he had posted on Twitter his thoughts about how lawmakers could put a stop to the mass destruction of fellow human beings.

But that’s a voice in the wilderness of social media, lost among all the others, debating, pointing fingers, calling for thoughts and prayers. Digital voices may be the language we use today, but they are like raindrops, and to get people to move, to make real change, sometimes you need a massive, booming thunderclap.

The human voice, on the right stage, can be that thunderclap. Speaking out can resonate and set off a chain reaction you can see and hear as the ripples spread from ground zero, circulating further and further via video and audio on social media.

That’s why Bedoya, after scoring a goal against D.C. United Sunday night at Audi Field, ran to the corner of the field and grabbed a microphone being used to capture sound from the game and yelled, “Hey Congress, do something now. End gun violence now. Let’s go!”

It was a dramatic moment, taking place on the field of play during a game. It illustrated the power that athletes have available to them — the ability to speak and be heard beyond the digital clutter of Twitter or Facebook. Bedoya had to chase down a microphone to seize the spotlight, but most athletes don’t even have to do that. People put microphones in front of them all the time.

Former Washington Redskin and Denver Bronco Hall of Famer Champ Bailey had plenty to say, in a voice that was far more powerful than a social media post, when he stood before the cameras, facing a microphone, with millions looking on.

“The first thing people see when they look at me is not a Pro Football Hall of Famer or a husband or a father,” Bailey said. “They view me first as a black man. So, on behalf of all the black men that I mentioned tonight, and many more out there who’ve had the same experiences that I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to all of our white friends:

“When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please don’t get caught up in how the message is delivered. Yes, most of us are athletes, but we are black men first. Understand this. Things that make us great on the field, like our size and our aggression, are the same things that can get us killed off the field.

“I believe if we start listening, there’s no telling the progress we can make,” he said. “All of us are dads, sons, brothers, your friends. We all understand that if we can’t get our friends to listen, then no one will. And to my black brothers, if you do not have anything positive to say about our social challenges, please keep your mouth shut.”

Bailey is out of the game. But for those still in the NFL, they don’t have to be on a stage to find a microphone to speak out. Every week, NFL locker rooms are filled with reporters carrying microphones begging for any content from players, many of whom hide in the training rooms when reporters enter.

If there is a message an athlete believes the world needs to hear, why not use that platform?

This was one of the flaws of the national anthem kneeling protest — a message calling for justice that got lost. The anthem means different things to different people, many of whom were offended by the method of the protest and never actually heard the message.

Players taking part in the protest argued that people weren’t listening. If that was the case, then the problem was with the way the message was delivered, not in the audience they were trying to reach.

Carolina safety Eric Reid began kneeling during the anthem along with his teammate and leader of the movement, Colin Kaepernick, when they were both with the San Francisco 49ers. They filed collusion grievances against the league when they claimed they were shut out because of their protests. Reid was eventually signed by the Panthers, and his complaint, along with Kaepernick’s, was settled. But Reid told the Charlotte Observer that he will still continue his anthem protest this season.

“If a day comes that I feel like we’ve addressed those issues, and our people aren’t being discriminated against or being killed over traffic violations, then I’ll decide it’s time to stop protesting,” he said. “I haven’t seen that happen.”

Fine. But that didn’t work.

There is another way to share your message, a way that won’t be misunderstood, a way to speak in such a way that fans will hear you, loud and clear.

Use the microphone.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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