Alejandro Bedoya has never been afraid of speaking his mind.
Bedoya has lived in several different countries, across two continents, and he allows those experiences, in part, to colour his views. He’s also not closed off to those that may disagree with him, as evidenced by a WhatsApp group chat with childhood friends from South Florida.
“I’d say we’re pretty split, a little bit down the middle,” he told reporters. “Most of us are down the middle, but some more left-wing, some more right-wing, whatever it is. Between that group chat, it’s a bipartisan effort that something has got to be done [about gun violence in the U.S.].”
It was in that same group chat a friend implored Bedoya to use his platform —as a professional soccer player and U.S. international— to demand more from politicians after two tragic shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
Bedoya agreed, and after first tweeting his thoughts, he saw an opportunity to go one step further. The moment came after he opened the scoring for the Philadelphia Union against D.C. United. Grabbing a pitchside microphone, Bedoya bellowed:
“Do something now. End gun violence. Let’s go.”.
It was fitting that his message emanated from the nation’s capital before echoing across the world. In the wake of the remark Bedoya received vocal support from his club, his coach Jim Curtin, the MLS Players Union, the media, and almost universally from the public. He was voted MLS Player of the Week (despite not being up for nomination) while some social media users urged MLS to award Bedoya Goal of the Year.
“I didn’t plan this,” Bedoya said afterward.
The fact Bedoya was so motivated to seize the opportunity afforded him offers a window into the kind of person he is.
In 2017, after a game for the national team, Bedoya spoke out against President Donald Trump’s policy decisions. “This guy talks about banning [refugees] — a ‘temporary’ ban, whatever you want to call it — [and] you’re splitting up families. … It’s very dangerous when you label a whole group as terrorists or as harmful people.”
He continued the conversation two months later with Sports Illustrated: “It’s a shame, the rhetoric that’s out there — a lot of stereotypes that are being thrown around that kind of creates this irrational fear.”
There is, however, an important distinction between discussing the politics of President Trump and what Bedoya said on Sunday. The latter was not political. Regardless of whether you agree or not about gun control, the unanimous position is that gun violence must end.
The issue itself is one close to the player’s heart. Bedoya grew up in Weston, Florida -- 10 minutes from Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the Parkland shooting in February 2018. During the Union’s home opener last season he expressed solidarity with victims of that attack through a t-shirt that read ‘MSD Strong.’ He also informed reporters that one of the Union’s academy players had a close friend killed in the shooting.
Speaking after the game on Sunday, Bedoya gave a further insight into how gun violence has impacted his day to day life.
“This stuff affects me. I’ve got kids. I mean, I can’t be the only one here... all you guys I’m sure feel the same way in this day and age, in our society,” he said. “I’m dropping my kids off at school, and I’m looking around paranoid, thinking about an exit strategy, when I’m at the mall, when I’m at a movie theatre, when I’m at a concert, a festival down the street, big gatherings. Something’s got to be done. It’s got to the point where we’ve almost become numb to it, and that’s a big problem.”
Often when Athletes veer into topics like this critics demand they ‘stick to sports,’ but that’s never been who Bedoya is. After all, this was not an athlete espousing policy; this was someone venting his frustration at the glacial pace of change that is so desperately needed.
And for those that still demand the midfielder do his job and ‘stick to sports,’ Bedoya had the perfect response.
“Before I’m an athlete before I’m a soccer player, I’m a human being first,” he said.