The Miami Heat basketball team urged fans to call their senators and “make change at the ballot box” to pass gun control laws in an announcement before an NBA playoff game Wednesday night.
“The Heat organization, the Boston Celtics and the NBA family also mourn those who lost their lives in the senseless shooting that took place yesterday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas,” the stadium announcer said as the Heat prepared to play the Boston Celtics in game five of the teams’ playoff series.
“Our hope is that the families, friends, coworkers and loved ones of all those impacted by this tragedy will find the comfort and strength they need, as they carry on in honor of those whose lives were lost,” the announcer added, before a moment of silence for the 19 children and two teachers who were killed by a deranged gunman in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.
But afterward, the announcer turned a unifying moment in a political one.
“The Heat urges you to contact your state senators by calling 202-224-3121 to leave a message demanding their support for commonsense gun laws,” the announcer said. “You can also make change at the ballot box. Visit Heat.com/vote to register and let your voice be heard this fall.”
The Heat’s political statement comes days after NBA coach Steve Kerr blamed Republican U.S. senators for the massacre at Robb Elementary School.
Kerr said that Republicans “refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings; I ask you, are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers? Because that’s what it looks like.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra similarly called on lawmakers to address gun violence in comments he made to the media Wednesday.
“After continued events there’s a call to action,” said Spoelstra. “I think everybody is trying to figure out a way to be heard to force some kind of change from the people that can make change. I just really feel for all the families … but it just continues to happen.”
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio responded to the criticism Wednesday, accusing the NBA of “politicizing a horrific tragedy in America.”
“Since @NBA @MiamiHeat is so committed to social justice and has pledged to ‘speak the truth’ when can we expect you to condemn the genocide of Uyghur Muslims being committed by your business partners in China?” Rubio tweeted.