The United States men’s national team wore orange armbands during Sunday’s 0-0 friendly draw against Uruguay to show support for a letter the team sent to Congress asking it to pass stricter gun control legislation.
The letter was written the wake of the mass shooting of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, by an 18-year-old gunman. That massacre came just 10 days after another teenager shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on gun control legislation in the coming days.
“With legislation being considered in the coming days in the House and Senate, we implore you to stand with the majority of Americans who support stronger gun laws,” the letter read in part.
Like scores of other teams across professional sports in the United States this weekend, the orange armbands worn by the USMNT showed support for “Wear Orange Weekend,” an annual event calling for an end to gun violence.
“Just really proud of the entire group today for the letter that was sent to everyone in Congress, calling them to action,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said after the match. “It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in our in our little world and what we’re doing and then you forget about what’s happening in the outside world, but this group certainly didn’t do that.
“And you saw the letter and the orange armbands. And everyone’s just tired, and it’s good that this group is asking for action and asking people to make change, and being the change is something we’ve been part of for a while now.”
The letter was drafted at the suggestion of Berhalter, who was motivated by the shooting death of Hadiyah Pendleton. At the time of her death back in 2013, Pendleton was just 15 years old.
“It’s not only about the mass shootings that you see every day, but it’s just about the needless gun violence and the kids and the people that are dying every day,” Berhalter added.
Following Berhalter’s suggestion, the team’s leadership council wrote the initial draft and then took it to the whole team.
“We wanted to take action and really send it to Congress to those who can make a difference with these laws and really proud of the group and the way that we stepped up,” said defender Walker Zimmerman.
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 to amplify social justice messaging with the senior national teams in the past. The men’s national team has adopted the “Be The Change” slogan, one that was echoed in the letter, and has worn warmup gear in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The USWNT has also worn “Black Lives Matter” on its warmups in past matches. Several USWNT players wore athletic tape on their wrists with the words “Protect Trans Kids” during their SheBelieves Cup game against Iceland back in February.
The USSF board of directors also passed a preliminary resolution back in March banning discriminatory chanting as it relates to USSF-hosted events. That resolution was passed at the last meeting of the USSF Rules Committee.
“There are those who say athletes shouldn’t get involved in issues that are deemed political,” the letter read. “Certainly, we can all agree that the safety of the children in our country is a sacred responsibility that is 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 borne out of necessity — we are talking about this issue because many of you refuse to take action.”