Anthony Rizzo at Florida vigil: ‘Something has to change’

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Seventeen people were killed when a gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, an alumni of the school, left training camp in Arizona to go to Parkland and, last night, spoke at a vigil for the victims and the community.

“While I don’t have all the answers, I know that something has to change, before this is visited on another community, and another community, and another community,” Rizzo said. If there is any doubt about what Rizzo meant by “something has to change,” know that, during the vigil, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and others made pleas for “common sense gun laws,” and each time they did, Rizzo rose to his feet as part of a loud ovation.

He went on:

“I am only who I am because of this community. And I just want all of you to know how proud I am to be a part of this community. I want you to know that you’re not alone in your grief. We’re all grieving with you. The entire country is grieving with you. So whatever comfort I can give, I will give. Whatever support I can offer to our students, teachers, coaches and families and first responders, you’ll have it.”

Video of Rizzo’s full speech can be seen below.

Given how long the comments thread was for yesterday’s post about Rizzo’s trip to Parkland due to its understandable detour into a debate about guns, and given Rizzo’s statements and reaction to the calls for “common sense gun laws,” I expect that the same will happen in response to this post as well. To that end, if I may, allow me to direct you to a couple of things I wrote elsewhere about gun regulation and mass violence, first in response to the Las Vegas shooting last year and then in response to Wednesday’s shooting. Most of you know where I stand on most political issues by now, but I think some of you may be a bit surprised where I stand on this. Or maybe not. I don’t know.

In any event, in linking that stuff it is my hope that, before retreating to the extreme ideological stances people tend to assume when talk of guns arises, we can at least try to reach some modicum of common ground as a means of making such debates productive rather than shrill and pointless. Perhaps that’s an unreasonable expectation, but it’s worth a try.

Anyway, here’s Rizzo:

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.